30 October 2014

Ann Bee's Naturals Seabuckthorn Rosehip Salve & Moroccan Silk Hair Oil

Ann Bee's Naturals is a small, family owned business making natural, non-GMO, eco-friendly products in Fair Hill, Maryland.  Ann Barczewski was inspired to start the company when she was unable to find daycare for her special needs daughter and transitioned to staying home with her.  The company, which began as a natural soap line in 2011, now includes over 100 products, including soaps, skincare, and bath and body items.  One of my favorite things about blogging is being able to feature smaller, independent companies making great, natural products, so when Ann reached out to me back in September, I was very happy to accept her offer to review some products.  After some deliberation, I settled on the Seabuckthorn Rosehip Salve and Moroccan Silk Neroli Sandalwood Oil.  


Seabuckthorn Rosehip Salve 
Multi-purpose salves always come in handy and I've found a multitude of uses for this one since getting my hands on it.  Along with organic seabuckthorn and rosehip oils, this 100% organic salve also contains organic extra virgin olive oil - infused with organic chamomile, lavender and calendula - and organic unrefined beeswax.  In the tin, it has a pretty solid balm consistency, but it's not at all waxy and the warmth of your fingers easily melts it into an emollient butter that's easy to apply.  It takes a couple minutes to fully sink in to the skin, but it's pretty light and not overly greasy.  The salve has an orange hue from the seabuckthorn and rosehip oils, but it rubs in clear and doesn't stain or color the skin at all.  It's great on dry skin and I love using it as a cuticle butter.  I've also used it in place of an eye cream, and while I didn't notice it having much of an effect on my dark circles, it did a good job hydrating and depuffing the area.    It also contains no essential oils so its scent comes only from the other ingredients.  To me, it just smells like a good, high quality, olivey olive oil.  


Moroccan Silk Neroli Sandalwood Oil
I've used straight argan oil in my hair for years, so Ann Bee's Moroccan Silk Oil, a blend of argan and macadamia oils scented with neroli and sandalwood essential oils, was one of the first products to catch my eye.  In addition to the oils, it also contains cruelty-free Tussah silk, which is rich in proteins and amino acids that condition and protect hair from moisture loss, while simultaneously strengthening and repairing the hair cortex.  I've never used a hair product with silk before, so I wasn't sure what to expect, and while I cant say I've noticed any results that I can attribute specifically to the silk, the oil leaves my hair feeling soft and touchable and works well to tame frizz.  Depending on the day, I sometimes find the scent a little overpowering, but if you're a fan of neroli, you'll love how this smells.  The sandalwood gives it a smidge of earthiness, but the predominant scent is definitely neroli.  

The oil can also be used as either a face serum or body oil, though I've yet to try it on anything more than my hair.  

The Bottom Line
I'm a fan!  Ann Bee's Naturals' products have great ingredients and are very affordable too.  Both of these ring in at under $15, and a little goes a long way, so I've barely made a dent in either one.  Whether you're looking to support a smaller business or just looking for some great products to try, this is a line worth checking out! 

* Press sample

24 October 2014

Brand Focus: Epic Blend Lip Balms (+ A Wee Giveaway)


Epic Blend is a Canadian company based in Kelowna, British Columbia that has been producing high quality, natural lip balms since 2007.  The balms are free of petroleum, synthetics, GMO's and gluten and are instead packed with nutrient-rich natural and organic ingredients.  

The company offers three lip balm formulas:
Hemp - made with organic hemp seed oil, a great nourisher that's packed with antioxidants and quickly absorbs into the skin
More Moisture - includes organic shea butter for extra moisture and longer staying power on the lips
Vegan - Replacing the beeswax with candelilla wax, these are 100% plant-based and vegan

I first discovered Epic Blend many months ago, back when I was still working at the health food store.  I was given a tube of Hemp Mint lip balm to try and quickly fell in love.  Sadly, that store didn't end up carrying the balms - at least not during the time I was working there - so, at a loss for how to get my hands on more, I reached out to Epic Blend who very generously sent me the entire line to review.  With so many balms and only two lips of my own, I enlisted my sister's help.  (You may remember Victoria from this post.)  She's nowhere near the product junkie status of yours truly, but she does appreciate a good lip balm, so I can't imagine a better person to recruit.  We split up the balms (and even saved a couple for one of you to win - more on that later) and after several months of rigorous testing, the verdict is in.



Caitie says...
I'm pretty sure I killed any suspense about what I thought of these when I featured the Unflavoured More Moisture Balm in my Starting Overtag video, but in case you missed it, I love these balms.  Each and every one of them.  

Hemp Mint started it all for me.  It's a perfect blend of peppermint and spearmint that's minty, but not to the point where you feel as though you're freezing your lips off if you wear it outside in cold weather.  Hemp Citrus Kick - a blend of grapefruit and orange - is bright and zesty, perfect for any citrus lovers out there.  Vegan Pineapple-Mint sounds like an odd mix at first, but the combination works.  It's fruity and fresh, all at the same time.  Surprisingly, More Moisture Unflavoured ended up being my favorite of the bunch.  It may not be flavoured, but it has a slightly sweet scent from all the oils and butters and really is the perfect, basic, no frills lip balm.  I can't imagine not keeping this one on hand at all times now.  Lastly, I tried the Garnet Star Tinted Lip Balm, which gives your lips a sheer, coppery-red tint.  The colour is subtle but pretty, and you get all the same lip loving benefits as you do from the rest of the balms.  

I really don't notice a significant difference between the three formulas.  If I had to differentiate, the Hemp has a little more slip to it than the other two, while the More Moisture is a bit more substantial and buttery on the lips.  The Vegan is a little more solid in the tube initially, but it applies great once it's warmed up on your lips.    All three are excellent.

Victoria says...
There's no contest: The Epic Blend flavours Caitie gave me to try are my new favourite lip balms.

I was pretty thrilled with the flavours I scored: The ones Caitie didn't really want were exactly the ones I wanted to try. After a long and very scientific (ahem) trial process, my favourite wound up being Hemp Vanilla, which has an unexpected chocolate note thanks to the combination of vanilla and cocoa butter. Vegan Wild Berry is a close second, with a rich and fruity scent. I also love More Moisture Cherry and More Moisture Green Apple, which smell exactly like the fruits they're named after without any artificial tang--just scrumptiousness. Last but not least, Hemp Coconut is the one that has made its way into my work bag, since it's a neutral but still aromatic flavour.

I had a scare about a month into using Epic Blend, when the weather changed and I discovered that my lips were chapping and peeling. I stopped using anything but Epic Blend for a couple of weeks to give them a fair shot, and the problem went away--which is when I threw out most of my other lip balms. Good riddance!

The Bottom Line
Epic Blend has pretty well hit it out of the park for both of us!  Epic indeed.  I love that the company is Canadian, that the ingredients are predominantly organic, and that the balms really work.  I highly recommend checking these out!

We've also got two balms to give away to one of you: More Moisture Grape and Garnet Star Tinted Lip Balm.  The giveaway will run for a week and is open to anyone, anywhere.  Fill in the Rafflecopter widget (below) to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

* Press sample

21 October 2014

Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Oil

Photo credit
I'm a big fan of both face oils and Weleda's Almond facial line, but I'd never followed those loves to their natural culmination and tried the Almond Soothing Facial Oil*.  Then, a couple months ago, Weleda's oil was awarded Allure's coveted 2014 Best of Beauty Award in the sensitive skin category and I was offered the chance to try this intriguing product.  

Allure writes that the oil "makes our skin luminous all day, and it smells faintly of marzipan" and I'd have to agree.   Like the rest of the almond line, the Soothing Facial Oil is composed of only a few simple ingredients, but they must be all the right ones, as the oil really does keep your skin hydrated all day long while imparting a healthy glow.  


What's in it?


Sweet Almond Oil - high in essential fatty acids that moisturize and soothe skin 


Plum Kernel Oil - full of antioxidants and vitamins A and E that help fight wrinkles and other signs of aging, while simultaneously repairing sun damage and skin irritation


Blackthorn Flower Extract - high in skin-toning tanins and vitamin C, which soothe inflammation and help strengthen the protective functions of the skin


And that's it!  Three simple ingredients that moisturize and nourish while simultaneously calming sensitive or irritated skin.  Like the rest of the line, the Almond Soothing Oil  is targeted to sensitive skin and does not contain any added fragrances or essential oils.  It has a slight, almost indiscernible almond scent, but it's so faint I can't imagine it bothering even the most sensitive of noses.  


I've been using the oil for about a month and I'm really happy with it.  Temperatures are starting to drop, but the Almond Soothing Oil has kept my skin hydrated and happy in this transition period.  It's a great mid-weight oil - not heavy, but also not the lightest oil out there.  It does take a few minutes to fully sink in, but once it's absorbed, my skin is left plump, well moisturized, and touchably soft.  

The Bottom Line
I'm impressed!  Almond may be the title ingredient, but I think a lot of credit is owed to the plum kernel oil and blackthorn extract.  I've used straight almond oil before and - great as it is - my skin has never gotten anywhere near the kind of healthy glow or radiance that Weleda's blend produces.  The oil can double as a makeup remover and the price point is very reasonable (roughly $20-30, depending where you find it), especially once you factor in the 1.7 ounce (50 ml) bottle.  I only use about 4 drops per application, so I forsee the generous bottle lasting me quite a while!

Have you tried the Almond Soothing Facial Oil or other products from Weleda's Almond line?


*Press Sample
Contains affiliate links

11 October 2014

Petit Vour: Beauty & The Box (September 2014)

Another month, another fantastic Petit Vour box!  September's box was again curated with vegan blogger, Tashina from Logical Harmony and I think it's the best box I've gotten yet!  I know, I've said that before, but seriously guys, these boxes just keep getting better.  This month's theme was Beauty & The Box* and focused on introducing indulgent new favorites to enjoy as we move into fall.  

There were a few different options for this box, but here's what I received in mine:



Root Science Face Scrub (Sample Value ±$16)
Root Science is a new brand for me, but a quick look at their website was all it took to get me interested.  Products are concentrated - made without water or fillers - and contain only high quality, potent, healing, natural ingredients.  There were a few different products sent out in this month's box, but as soon as unboxings started showing up in my Instagram feed, I knew this scrub was what I most wanted to try.  It didn't even make it 24 hours before I was slapping this on my face!  Made of baking soda, clay, almond meal, and soothing herbs, it's an exfoliating powder that gently buffs without stripping or drying your skin.  The 1.5 ounce sample is also a really decent size, considering you only use 1/2-1 teaspoon per use.  

Lily Lolo Vanilla Shimmer Mineral Eye Shadow ($12)
I have a Lily Lolo highlighter that I love, but I haven't used their eye shadows before, so I'm eager to give this one a try.  Vanilla Shimmer is a cream colour that I'd imagine is universally flattering on just about anyone.   Light, shimmery neutrals are my default eye look, so I'm betting I'll get a lot of use out of this one.

Ellovi Tinted Lip Butter ($5)
I've heard tons of good things about Ellovi, and based off the lip butter, I'd wager it's all well deserved.  Made of only six ingredients - and no waxes - the lip butter is incredibly smooth and creamy and just melts into your lips like - if you'll excuse the pun - butter.  It smells faintly like coconut oil and leaves behind a subtle red tint, courtesy of Mediterranean alkanet root.    

Yarok Feed Your Ends Leave-In Conditioner ($13.20)
I've previously used a mini of this leave-in conditioner and I've had it in the back of my mind to buy it again, so I'm stoked to receive it in this box.  As a leave-in, it conditions your hair without leaving it greasy or weighed down, and it smells lovely - sweet, lemony and never overpowering.  I don't use much heat on my hair, but you can also use Feed Your Ends as a heat protectant before heat styling.  



The Bottom Line
This month had a great mix of skincare, haircare, and makep, and I'm really happy with everything that was included!  I got one product I already know I love, two I've wanted to try, and one I'd never heard of but am super impressed with after even just one use.  

From a purely numbers point of view, Petit Vour's boxes are always worth the cost too.  This month's box rings in at roughly $46.  

Petit Vour boxes retail for $15 (US) / $23 (Canada) / $30 (International) and individual products can also be bought in the Petit Vour shop.  


*Press sample

6 October 2014

New Blush Favorites: The All Natural Face, Pure Anada & Silk Naturals

With skin as pale as mine, it's very easy to overdo it with blush and end up looking like a clown.  For that reason, it's taken me a while to fully embrace wearing blush, but I think I'm officially a convert.  Today I want to talk about three fairly new-to-me blushes I've been loving.


The All Natural Face Desert Sand Glow
Technically this one is an all over face glow, not a blush, but it's way too dark on my skin to use all over.  Instead, I love using it as a subtle blush.  It's a nude pink color that goes with just about any makeup look.  It works equally well to tone down an otherwise dramatic makeup look, or just as an easy blush to grab when you're in a hurry or can't decide what color to wear.  

Pure Anada Fresh Mandarin Blush
Peach blushes are always a favorite around here and Fresh Mandarin is a pretty, burnt orange shade that seems especially fitting for fall.  I've mostly gotten used to loose blushes, but the added convenience of a pressed blush definitely comes in handy sometimes.  One drawback of this product is that it has a weird, putty-like smell, but according to the company, this is just the scent of the raw, unrefined jojoba oil that's used as a binder.  Would I like it better without the smell? Definitely, but it only smells in the pan, not on your face, so it isn't enough to stop me from enjoying such a pretty blush shade.

Silk Naturals Abstract Sheer Blush
Abstract is a pale, plummy pink shade with a nice, luminous finish, but no actual shimmer or glitter. The base is a cool-toned pink, but it has a slight gold sheen that warms it up nicely.  Seriously, I've been using this color almost non-stop these last few months and I just love it.  Silk Naturals' blushes are fantastic for us lighter skinned folk, because they go on sheer (at first) and blend very easily.  They're still very buildable though, so I don't think darker skinned ladies would have any issues using them either.  


The Bottom Line
The swatches of these three paint a pretty clear picture of how I like my blushes: not too dark and not too pigmented.  I'll reach for a more vivid blush on occasion, but for everyday, I usually go for a fairly subtle cheek color, somewhere along the lines of these three.  

What's your go-to blush color?

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