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

13 February 2017

Mega Empties // Products I've Used Up {Part 4: Makeup}

The one good thing about waiting so long to write up my empties is that I actually had time to accumulate a decent pile of finished makeup!  Using up makeup takes forever, but it's always so satisfying, isn't it?  Here's everything that I finished off in the last few months:

  

Face
Juice Beauty's Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream makes a nice lightweight base.  It offers minimal coverage, but has a pretty, glowy finish.  Natural Glow, the lightest shade, was a great color match for me too.  The scent is the one negative of this product, although by midway through the tube, I was mostly used to it.  The CC Cream smells strongly like petitgrain, which if you aren't familiar with it, has quite a grassy/herbal scent.

I didn't notice any skincare benefits or reduced dark circles from Alba Botanica's Fast Fix for Undereye Circles, but it works pretty well as a yellow-toned color corrector.  It's a little sheer, so most often I used it layered under another concealer.  Alima Pure's Luminous Shimmer Blushes are a fantastic formula and Guava, since discontinued, was a beautiful shimmery peach.  I wish it was still available -- it was a great natural, easy-to-wear color!

Eyes
Zuzu Luxe Onyx Mascara is a longtime favorite of mine -- I've probably used 15 or 20 tubes of it over the years!  It doesn't give the most dramatic lashes, but it's great for a natural look and doesn't smudge or flake at all.  I've even made it through a few snowstorms with intact lashes with this guy!  The Ashley Morgan Cosmetics Black Mascara (now Purely Lulu) was a new discovery for me and a great one!  It's very black and creates beautiful, fluttery lashes.  Both mascaras are also good for sensitive eyes.

Zuzu Luxe's Russet Eyebrow Pencil was, I believe, my very first brow purchase.  I found the color slightly too warm-toned with my natural hair color, but since henna-ing my hair the last couple months, that warmth became a positive.  Color aside, Zuzu's brow pencils have a good, solid formula that goes on nicely and lasts the entire day without budging.    

I still have a ridiculous number of eye shadow samples, but at least I finished off a few more!  Silk Naturals Nekkid Eye Shadow, a supposed dupe for MAC Naked Lunch, is a shimmery pink/pale rose gold.  It's a great all-over the lid shade.  Cheeky Cosmetics Espresso Eye Shadow, a rich and pigmented matte dark brown, was another hit and fantastic as a powder eyeliner.  Lucy Minerals' Creamy White Eye Shadow is a powder, but one with a super creamy feel, similar to the company's foundation, and I liked it a lot as a brow bone highlight.  I used up samples of Silk Naturals' Beach Bunny and Malibu Miss, both technically bronzers, as eye shadows too.  Both are mid-toned warm/yellow browns -- one shimmery, one matte -- which are exactly the kinds of colors I wear in the crease most days, and the sheerer bronzer formula made blending super easy.  Since I'm not much of a bronzer wearer, I was happy to move the samples out this way instead.

Lips
I hear so many people say that they never get through lip balm, but that's clearly not an issue for me!  Rachel's Plan Bee's Lip Balm completely saved my lips last winter when nothing else was working and I'll always have a soft spot for it for that alone!  I prefer the Peppermint to this one, the Natural Flavor, but both are fantastically nourishing and buttery.  I also really enjoyed the Duckish Grapefruit Lip Balm.  It has a slightly heavier formula -- although not uncomfortably so -- and makes the perfect protective lip cover for braving the cold.  This is what I've been wearing for late night winter dog walks where the temperature is regularly around -10°C.  The Savannah Bee Co. Wild Blackberry Beeswax & Propolis Lip Balm was also great.  Less of a heavy hitter than the first two, but it still worked well and the blackberry scent is fantastic -- sweet and fruity without smelling fake or cloying.  Compared to the other three, the Sierra Bees Organic Unflavored Lip Balm was a little unimpressive.  Sierra Bees is one of iHerb's own brands and the lip balms are both certified organic and super inexpensive.  I have nothing bad to say about them -- they're good balms and the price alone (currently $2.95 for an 8-pack!) always has me tempted to throw a pack into my cart, but I realize there are other balms -- like the other three here -- that I like more. 

Nails
Priti NYC's Soy Nail Polish Remover is my gold standard for nail polish remover.  It removes polish well, doesn't dry out nails or cuticles, and it has absolutely no nasty polish remover smell.  I have mixed feelings about the Suncoat Nail Polish Remover Gel, a gel that you're supposed to spread onto the nails and let sit for 2 minutes before wiping off.  By itself, you need to reapply many times to fully remove polish -- really not worth the time or effort -- however as the first step in removing tricky glitter polishes, I did like it.  I'd leave the gel on for closer to 5 minutes and then remove it and go back in with a regular liquid remover like the Priti NYC.  I'd never recommend the Gel Remover on its own, but it definitely helpful in breaking down difficult glitter polishes.  I loved the Pacifica Gloss Top & Base Coat at first, but it was ultimately disappointing.  You can't really tell in the photo, but the bottle is only about halfway done and it doesn't work at all anymore.  The polish is gloopy and has started to dry on the nails with bubbles and divets.  I'm kind of bummed to chuck it, but it's basically unusable at this point and just ruins otherwise good manicures/pedicures.  

And that's a wrap!  I'm so happy to finally get rid of all this beauty trash!

Contains affiliate links.

10 February 2017

Mega Empties / Products I've Used Up {Part 3: Body Care}

I like tracking empties for a number of reasons, not the least of which that I find it really interesting to notice how much of various kinds of products we actually get through.  It's not always what you think.  Case in point: today I learned that I use a lot of soap.  Keep reading for the details + the lowdown on all the body products I've used up in the last 5+ months.  

Bar Soaps
I'm a fan of gentle bar soaps, especially through the winter months when my skin is more prone to drying out.  The Mamma Oceania Antioxidant Soap, SBT Seabuckthorn Berry Bar, and Rocky Mountain Soap Pumpkin Soap were my favorites of the bunch -- all three are very gentle, palm oil free, great for sensitive skin, and made by fantastic Canadian companies.  On a Branch's Apple Cider Soap -- also Canadian and palm oil free -- had the most amazing spicey cinnamon scent, but the bar got a little gloopy and melted away quicker than I would have liked, even left to dry in a draining soap dish.  I did have this particular bar hanging around for a good while before I used it, which could maybe have impacted it.  The Graham Gardens Lemongrass Milk Soap, sent to me by the lovely people at The Choosy Chick, smelled wonderful too and produced a great luxurious, rich lather, but it's one that I likely would not repurchase since it does contain palm oil.




Body Wash
I'm not sure why I've never used Acure's body washes before, but they're really lovely!  They have the feel and lather of a traditional shower gel, but leave skin feeling a lot softer and more hydrated than most gels.  I didn't notice any significant formula difference between the two, just the scents -- the Clarifying Body Wash is minty and fresh, while the Cell Stimulating Body Wash (now the Energizing Body Wash) smells like almonds.  If you're familiar with Acure's hair care, the body washes smell exactly the same as the Volume and Ultra-Hydrating hair products.  

Nourish Organics' Moisturizing Cream Body Washes are a longtime favorite of mine.  They have a creamy/milky consistency and are extra gentle on the skin.  Wild Berries was discontinued last year, but I still have a couple bottles stashed away.  I also like The Honest Co.'s Honest Shampoo + Body Wash, mostly for its yummy orange-vanilla scent.  This mini came in one of the company's trial kits, but I've also bought the full size before.  



Moisturizers
The Savannah Bee Company's Unscented Honey Body Lotion is a fantastic unscented lotion.  It's rich and nourishing but doesn't leave you feeling greasy or slippery, or take forever to sink into the skin.  No odd 'unscented scent' either, if you know what I mean.  I also really loved the Duckish Lavender Lotion Stick.  It's solid in the tube, but melts into the skin immediately on contact.  Rocky Mountain Soap's Dry Skin Butter is a similar concept, but the actual product is much more solid and slightly waxy.  It does a good job treating dry skin, but doesn't feel nearly as luxurious as the Duckish.  

I held onto this bottle of Rachel's Plan Bee Body Oil for far longer than I probably should have, but I really did love it.  It's pretty much the perfect body oil in terms of feel and consistency, but I couldn't always tolerate the scent, which is why it lasted me so long.  It's an undeniably beautiful orange-vanilla fragrance and completely essential oil-based, but it was a little too strong for me a lot of days.  As I've told Rachel before, if she ever creates an unscented version, I'd be all over it!  The Honest Co. Organic Healing Balm, from the same trial kit as the body wash, didn't make a strong impression.  It's a fine product, but I think there are better balms out there, so it's probably not something I'd purchase again. 



Teeth
I'm pretty set on keeping my mouth care completely free of glycerin and the Miessence Mint Toothpaste is a new favorite.  It tastes a little salty, but is very minty and leaves your mouth feeling super fresh.  I wish Miessence was a little more accessible -- the only reason I haven't replaced this already -- but I'm sure I'll place an order eventually.  Tierra Mia Organics Healthy Dent Tooth Regime, on the other hand, didn't work for me at all, at least not as toothpaste.  Teeth felt clean after using it, but the mint was so subtle as to be undetectable, so all I got was a strong soap taste that would not go away, even after multiple rinses.  No exaggeration, it lingered in my mouth for hours!  Since they're basically just shreds of bar soap, I ended up adding the tooth chips into loads of laundry, just for the sake of using them up.  They actually worked great in that capacity and I'm totally sold me on DIY/bar soap laundry detergents now!



Essential Oils
Clearly essential oils don't sit unused around here!  Thieves is great for boosting the immune system and overall health through cold and flu season.  I like it as a preventative and also used it to help kick a flu bug I caught early in the fall.  Peace & Calming is one of my favorite blends to use before bed, particularly if I have trouble winding down or falling asleep.  Lastly, Orange and Cinnamon Bark (along with Clove) were frequently enjoyed in my oil diffuser through the fall months.  

Stay tuned for makeup empties over the weekend -- the last of this ginormous batch of empties!

Contains affiliate links.


9 February 2017

Mega Empties // Products I've Used Up {Part 2: Hair Care}

Next up, hair empties!   I never go through a ton of hair stuff and it's a bit of a random batch this time as I've been making a concerted effort to use up all the nearly finished bottles of shampoo and conditioner lingering in my shower.  



Shampoos
I liked all three of these (and their matching conditioners too!)  The Griffin Remedy Volumizing Shampoo doesn't dramatically impact volume, but it's a great everyday shampoo and smells wonderful.  After the matching conditioner ran out, I used it to clean my makeup brushes a few times too.  Broo's Malted Mint Invigorating Shampoo uses craft beer in place of water and is incredibly gentle and hydrating.  I tried Broo's old formulas a few years ago -- when they came in bottles rather than tubes -- and had problems with the scents, but this one has a much milder fragrance.  It smells a little like mint and a little like beer, but neither scent lingers at all once hair dries.  The Andalou Naturals' Argan & Sweet Orange Shampoo is another good one, although like I mentioned in yesterday's skincare empties, Andalou has reformulated most of their products with what I consider to be inferior ingredients.  I managed to snag a couple backups of the old formula shampoo and conditioner, but after those, I won't be using Andalou's hair care any more.  

Conditioners
I can't quite wrap my head around Intelligent Nutrients' prices here in Canada, but if money was no object, I'd probably exclusively use their products on my hair.  That said, the Harmonic Conditioner is not one of the company's top standouts for me.  I adore the matching Harmonic Shampoo -- which I used up many months ago -- but the conditioner is just so-so.  It smells great and works well, but I'm not convinced it performs significantly better than less costly options.  The Desert Essence Coconut Conditioner is something of a cult favorite, in the green community and beyond, but I can't deal with its strong scent.  I couldn't even get through the entire mini.  I like some coconut scents, but the DE is verging on synthetic sunscreen coconut to my nose and I'm not a fan.  Beyond the fragrance, the actual conditioner works well, so I ended up replacing it with the Italian Lemon instead.  It has a much milder fragrance and is scented only with essential oils.   

Styling + Extras 
I've gone through countless bottles of the Kinky-Curly Spiral Spritz Styling Serum over the last few years and I've got another one on the go right now.  I prefer lightweight products that defines my curls without any stickiness or crunchy feel, and that's exactly what the aloe-based Spiral Spritz does.  It's a great no-frills products for me.  Chorus Supernatural's Moor Clay Mask is technically a face mask, but I loved it even more as a clarifying shampoo mix-in.  (I have an entire post on how I use it HERE.)  I've since replaced the Moor Clay with a different clay, but it's not working nearly as well, so I may circle back to this one again in the near future.  

I bought Rainbow Henna's Persian Burgundy Henna over two years ago, but never quite worked up the courage to use it until this past December.  The color was not at all what I was originally going for, but I ended up liking it a lot nonetheless.  This was my first time dying my own hair, so it was a learning (and a bit of a PITA if I'm completely honest) but the results are great, so I think it's worth the hassle.  One pot of henna was enough for one full dye job and one root touch up on my medium-length hair.  I'm debating dedicating an entire post to my henna experience, so let me know if that's something you'd be interested in seeing!


Contains affiliate links.

8 February 2017

Mega Empties // Products I've Used Up {Part 1: Skincare}

I'm officially declaring the rest of this week empties week here on the blog!  My last empties post was way back in September, so there's a fair bunch of stuff to talk about -- thus, the decision to sort and split everything up into multiple posts.  Today's post is all about skincare and hair, body, and makeup will follow.  

Before I get into the specifics, here's a peek at the chaos that was my floor while sorting through 5+ months of empty products:


Face Wipes
I've said it before, but as ridiculous as it sounds, I'm a reluctant face wipes user, only regularly using them due to plumbing in an older house.  I much prefer oil cleansing to remove my makeup, but my bathroom sink is less of a fan, so I use a face wipe to remove the oil, and then follow up with a regular cleanser at the sink.

Since I use them in combination with an oil cleanser, I'm not overly picky, beyond looking for something with clean ingredients that's biodegradable, mildly scented and non-irritating.  Both the Boo Bamboo Makeup Remover Wipes and the Honest Co. Honest Baby Wipes fit the bill for me and are ones I'll continue to buy.  The Boo Bamboo Baby Wipes, on the other hand, are just okay.  The ingredients include Polysorbate 20, which I don't love, plus I'm not crazy about how they smell -- like an odd mix of baby powder and lavender.  They do the trick and don't bother my skin, but just aren't a favorite.  Lastly, I used up a pack of the Acure Unscented Argan Oil Cleansing Towelettes, which were a complete fail for me.  They irritated my face and quickly got relegated to cleaning up swatches and dusting duty.



Cleansers
I seriously love all three of these cleansers!  Holiskin's Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser made it into my 2016 favorites and is a phenomenal oil cleanser and makeup remover.  It's incredibly gentle and I love its delicate chamomile-lavender scent too.  Ursa Major's Fantastic Face Wash is another favorite and something I've bought more than once.  It's a great gel formula that produces a light lather and rinses away cleanly without leaving skin feeling dry or stripped.  The Batty's Bath Soothing Cleanser is a beautiful creamy cleanser laced with gentle jojoba beads.  I think I'd like it even more without the beads, as I don't feel like they do much, but the citrus/mint scent was a big hit with me and I also was impressed with how incredibly effective the cleanser is at calming the skin and reducing redness.



Moisturizers
The Mad Hippie Face Cream was a last minute iHerb grab, but one that I ended up really liking.  Mad Hippie's products are inexpensive and loaded with active ingredients -- in this case, peptides, niacinamide, sodium PCA, and antioxidants.  To me, it was a good basic lightweight moisturizer.  No crazy anti-aging results -- at least from the one tube -- but it moisturized well and I enjoyed using it.  

I also used up a bunch of Andalou Naturals minis, although I won't dwell on them too much, as Andalou has recently overhauled their entire line and almost everything has been reformulated.  The Probiotic + C Renewal Cream was super lightweight and quick to absorb into the skin, but did a great job hydrating nonetheless.  It almost felt like a cross between a gel moisturizer and a more traditional cream.  The Purple Carrot + C Luminous Night Cream and Super Goji Peptide Perfecting Cream are both a little heavier, but also nice moisturizers.  All of these were the old formulas, I can't speak to any of them in their current formulations.



Masks
Blissoma's Lavish Loving Recovery Beta-Glucan Mask is a wonderful multi-purpose hydrating and soothing product.  I like using it both as a wash-off moisturizing mask and as a hydrating leave-on overnight treatment.  (And, if you saw Blissoma's latest newsletter, it apparently has even more applications as a hand cream, hair mask + more!)  I've used up a couple samples now and I'll definitely consider the full size as soon as my mask stash is a little more manageable.

Andalou Naturals's 1000 Roses Rosewater Face Mask, which somehow missed the photo, was a decent moisturizing mask too.  The scent was a very sweet rose and not too overpowering, even for me, who often doesn't get on with rose or heavy florals.  The mask moisturized well enough in the moment, but I didn't notice any long term hydrating benefits.  In a choice between this and Blissoma Lavish, I'd definitely pick the Blissoma.

Likewise, the Kombucha Enzyme Exfoliating Peel did very little for my skin.  The BioActive 8 Berry Fruit Enzyme Mask offered gentle exfoliation from fruit acids and enzymes and was nice, although again, nothing spectacular.  When spaced out, it seemed to do a good job cleaning out pores and left skin feeling very soft to the touch, but if I used it twice in close succession, it did nothing the second time.  Again, the three Andalou masks were all the company's old formulas.  I don't know how the new versions compare, in either performance or ingredients, and to be honest, all the reformulations have left me a little disillusioned with Andalou overall.    



Extras
Young Living Frankincense and Roman Chamomile Essential Oils are both great.  I regularly add Frankincense to DIY toners and masks, and also use it on pimples and blemishes.  The Roman Chamomile has been sitting lost and unloved in my essential oils for several years, but I finished it off in the DIY Oil Cleanser I've been making the last several months (recipe here).  Both oils are pricey, no doubt, but a little goes a long way.

Stay tuned for more empties over the next few days.  I've also got some fun new products to share next week!  


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