29 January 2015

A Birthday Giveaway

I've been gathering goodies for this giveaway for a while and today - which just so happens to be my birthday - seemed like a good time to finally put it up!  It's nothing huge or extravagant, just a little something to say thank you to all of you who read my small section of the internet.  I really am grateful to everyone who takes the time!

Given the weather of late, tea seemed pretty appropriate, and I've also included some other things that I thought would be great to have during these last few months of winter, but also all year.  

Here's what's up for grabs:

The giveaway will be open internationally and the only requirement to enter is that you follow me in some way.  Enter as many or as few ways as you'd like using the Rafflecopter widget below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Contains affiliate links

26 January 2015

Nonie of Beverly Hills AHA! Skincare with Alpha Hydroxy Acids

A lot of natural skincare puts a big emphasis on plant oils, botanicals, and extracts, and while I'd never complain about that, it's also refreshing to see the market expanding to include product lines taking a slightly different, more scientific approach to non-toxic skincare.  Nonie of Beverly Hills' AHA! Line - "Beauty from the Chemistry of Nature" - combines natural, non-toxic, vegan ingredients and fruit acids from bilberry, sugar cane, maple cane, lemon, and orange.  I don't have a lot of experience using acids in my skincare, so when the company reached out to me late last year, I was very excited to try the products and see what AHA's could do for my skin.

AHA! Skin Cleanser*
The Skin Cleanser is a thick, creamy cleansing lotion that's recommended for use without water.  Similar to old school cold cream cleansing, Nonie of Beverly Hills recommends applying the cleanser to the skin on dry cotton pads.  I've been enjoying this product, although with a slightly modified method.  Rather than using cotton pads, I prefer to massage the cleanser onto a dry face using just my fingers.  It's great for breaking down makeup, even mascara and eyeliner.  Once the product is thoroughly massaged in, I wipe it off with a warm, wet washcloth.  Sometimes I find it can leave behind a slight coating or film on the skin, so I've been using this more as a makeup remover than a full-on cleanser and opting to follow with a different cleanser afterwards.  Used this way - as the first part of a double cleanse - I really like it.  The Skin Cleanser doesn't contain any added AHA's and is quite gentle, even around the eyes.  It also has a nice sweet lemon scent that reminds me of lemon ice.  

AHA! Skin Tonic*

Toners often leave me underwhelmed, but I've actually been quite impressed with this one.  The main ingredient is witch hazel - naturally high in skin toning tannins that are both anti-inflammatory and can help tighten the pores - and since it's alcohol free, the Skin Tonic is also non-drying.  This was the first product I started using from the line and I really saw my pores become visibly cleaner - and thereby slightly less noticeable - within just three or four days of use.  It has a similar lemon scent to the cleanser - perhaps with a hint of something fresher like celery.  Again, the Skin Tonic doesn't contain any added AHA's.  

AHA! Brilliant Moisturizer*

The moisturizers are where the line's namesake AHA's come into play.  With 5% AHA from natural fruit sources, Brilliant is recommended for normal and combination skin and acts as both a moisturizer and a gentle daily exfoliant.  The first few times I used it, I experienced some minor tingling from the acids - though nothing overwhelming - and even that gradually dissipated within the first week or two of use.

Nonie of Beverly Hills suggests working up to twice daily use, but because my skin leans a little more sensitive and I haven't wanted to overdo it with the acids, I've mainly stuck to using Brilliant at night, with another oil or moisturizer in the mornings, and I've still seen good results.  It's a medium-weight moisturizer with the same sweet lemon scent as the cleanser and hydrates well,  absorbs quickly, and isn't the least bit sticky or tacky.

Almost from the very first use, I noticed how soft my skin became.  I usually use manual exfoliants and I've always thought were doing the job, but I don't think my face has ever been this smooth and soft before.  The AHA's really work to resurface and improve skin texture, leaving behind baby soft skin.   I haven't noticed any reduction in my few fine lines, but since AHA's are known to smooth lines, increase cell renewal, and improve collagen production, I'm hoping that will come next!

Brilliant does contain coconut oil, but it hasn't caused any of the usual problems I experience with coconut oil on my face.  Perhaps the acids work to counteract the comedogenic properties of the coconut oil?  Whatever the reason, Brilliant has worked brilliantly (I couldn't resist!) for my skin.  

I also tried a sample of the SPF 15 Sunblock Moisturizer, which takes a little more effort to work into the skin, but has a similar feel and leaves virtually no whitecast behind once you do rub it in fully.  If you prefer your moisturizer with SPF, that's another good option to consider.   

The Bottom Line
I really like this line!  The two definite standouts were the Skin Tonic and the Brilliant Moisturizer.  I've seen a noticeable improvement in my skin from both these products.  I'm not as crazy about the Skin Cleanser by itself as a cleanser, but it's great as a first cleanse to remove makeup.  

I like the sweet lemon scent across the line and that the scent is light, fresh, and not overpowering.  It's something I notice as I use the products, but I don't smell it on my skin throughout the day, which is just how I like these things.  There's a good selection of different moisturizers to suit various skin types and the price point, across the entire line, is also very reasonable, particularly once you factor in the larger-than-average product sizes (7 ounce cleanser and tonic, 1.75/3.5 ounce moisturizers) of the AHA! products.  

Ingredients Note: Many of the product ingredients include a vague "coconut emulsifier."  When I inquired, the company confirmed that this is non-GMO coconut and vegetable sourced glyceryl stearate and not an ethoxylated polysorbate emulsifier. 

*Press sample

22 January 2015

Sample Stash #14: Eye Creams, Take II

I've yet to settle on a replacement product since finishing my Pure + Simple Eye Brightening Cream at the end of the summer.  Instead, I've been working through a whole bunch of sample, trying to explore what else is out there.  My main eye concern is dark circles, but I also do get some puffiness.  Fine lines aren't an issue, except in the preventative sense.  

Obviously I can't speak to long term results with most of these, but I still wanted to share my initial impressions.  Since they're reserved for such a small area, even the sample sachets provide enough product for a week or two of use. 

Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream
I've been using Balance Me's Wonder Eye Cream on and off for a couple months now and I like it.  It feels very light and weightless but also provides a good amount of moisture.  I haven't found it to dramatically reduce either darkness or puffiness, but it does make a small difference in both regards.  I'm very happy to use this hefty 10 ml travel size to the end, but I'm not sure I'd buy it again after that.  

Absolution Le Soin Regard Eye Contour Booster
I've wanted to try Absolution's eye cream ever since Kim (of KimberlyLoc) wrote about it being a staple in her routine.  The Contour Booster has a light gel consistency and contains mica to diffuse light and brighten the under eye area.  The sachet didn't last long enough for me to discern any long term effects, but the mica really does brighten and the cream also provides an instant tightening effect that (somewhat) minimizes puffiness.  I'd be much more inclined to buy the full size if it didn't smell quite so heavily of roses - I'm sure by now I've made it abundantly clear that I'm just not a rose fan.  

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Repair Eye Treatment
The Stem Cellular Repair Eye Treatment is a light gel purported to increase cell turnover, improve elasticity, and minimize dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles.  A lot of claims, but - bearing in mind that, again, I just had a small sample - I really didn't see any noticeable effects with this product.  I also noticed a few small milia while using it, so it's not something I'll be picking up for a longer trial.

Dr. Alkaitis Organic Eye Crรจme
Given how strongly I feel about the Soothing Gel, I really expected to love Dr. Alkaitis' Eye Cream as well.  Unfortunately, I just don't. It's a thicker cream that feels very nice and rich going on, but like the Juice Beauty, I just didn't see any difference in my eye area when using it.  It also stung a lot if any migrated too near the eye.  There were a couple nights where I was left tearing up for a good 40 minutes because a speck of the eye cream somehow made it into my eye.  

I'm starting to think that finding a perfect eye cream is something of an unattainable holy grail!  Have you found it?  What are your favorite eye products?  

Contains affiliate links.

19 January 2015

Lily Lolo Laid Bare Palette + Mascara (& a 20% Off Code!)

I've heard a lot about Lily Lolo over the years - mainly from UK bloggers -  so I was very excited when the North American branch of the company reached out to me about trying some of their new releases.  Made in London, Lily Lolo is a 100% natural mineral cosmetics line, free of the regular nasties, as well as dyes, bismuth oxychloride, and nano-particles.  The company rebranded their entire line in 2014 and I can't get enough of the new, clean black and white design.  They've also had some great product launches recently and I'm super excited to bring you my thoughts on two of their newest products today.  

Laid Bare Palette*
I've been using exclusively natural products for a good several years now, so unlike a lot of people making the switch, I never had an Urban Decay Naked Palette to miss.  Still, with all the hype and the multitude of YouTube tutorials revolving around it, I've definitely found myself longing for a comparable natural product.  The first promo images of the Laid Bare Palette had me thinking this was it, and after trying it, I do think it nicely fills this gap in the non-toxic makeup market.

Measuring in at less than 5 inches long, the Laid Bare Palette is ultra-portable and contains eight neutral eye shadows, along with a double ended sponge tip applicator and a good sized mirror.  The eye shadows are free of both talc and silicones and have a soft, buttery feel.  They aren't the absolute most saturated colors, but the pigmentation is nothing to scoff at, particularly if you use a stickier primer or base underneath.  Most of the colors are pretty soft - very work/day appropriate - but the darker shades can be built up for smokier looks too.  Really, my only complaint is that I feel like the palette is missing a good, bright highlight shade for the inner corner, but that's something you can easily add in with another product.    

Natural pressed shadows often come with a higher price tag, but for a cohesive palette of eight shadows, I think the Laid Bare Palette is reasonably priced at $34.  This is a limited edition item, so if you're interested in picking one up, I don't recommend waiting too long to do so.

It's no secret that when it comes to mascara, I've been pretty devoted to my Zuzu Luxe, but Lily Lolo's newly reformulated mascara has definitely given Zuzu a run for its money.  The Black color is a true, dark black and the mascara gives a good amount of both volume and length.  It has a good sized, standard bristle mascara brush that does well to separate and define the lashes and the mascara formula doesn't irritate my eyes, even when wearing it for long days or several consecutive days in a row. 

I wouldn't say the mascara is entirely budge proof, but I consistently get a minimum of 10-12 hours wear before starting to see minor flaking.  The exception to this is if you find yourself tearing up or caught in a snowstorm, both of which resulted in smudging a good bit sooner.  It's also not a difficult mascara to remove.  Water alone won't do the trick, but a little oil or makeup remover gets it done no problem.  

I wanted to include an eyelash photo to show the mascara, but I haven't been very successful getting a good one, so for fear of holding this post up indefinitely, I've decided to go ahead and post without one.  If I manage to get a good shot later, I'll add it in here.

The Bottom Line
Whether you're looking for a natural alternative to the Naked palettes, or just for talc- and silicone-free pressed eye shadows, the Laid Bare Palette is a great choice.  There's also the Enchanted Palette, if smokier eyes are more your thing.  The mascara was a big hit with me too - easily one of my top two natural mascaras - and is something I will be repurchasing in the future.  

Lily Lolo has also given me a coupon code to share with you guys! Save 20% with the code naturallabeauty.  The discount is good on the North American site only.

Lastly, I've also heard whispers that the mascara will be making an appearance in either the January or February Petit Vour box, so that's another way to maybe get your hands on it.

*Press Sample

16 January 2015

The Winter Hand Cream Hustle

I don't remember ever using hand cream until two winters ago.  Temperatures can drop pretty low here, but it never bothered my hands...until suddenly it did.  There's been no turning back since and for someone who didn't use handcream for most of her life, I've managed to amass quite an arsenal these past couple years.  Each one serves a (slightly) different purpose and they all come together to keep my hands soft, healthy and hydrated through the cold months and all year long.

The Day Time Troopers
Organic Surge Tropical Bergamot Hand & Nail Cream + Odylique Lemon Butter Hand Smoothie*
Whether I'm running around or spending time on the computer, for daytime I need a hand cream that absorbs quickly and doesn't leave my hands greasy, sticky, or coated.  Both of these fit the bill and are also small enough to easily tote around in my bag.  I find the Lemon Butter Hand Smoothie does a slightly better job moisturizing in the moment, but the Tropical Bergamot Hand & Nail Cream has a longer lasting effect and therefore requires less re-applications throughout the day.   

The Before You Step Outside Protector
Weleda Calendula Weather Protection Cream
I don't know if anyone else has this problem, but - with or without gloves - my hands seem like they start losing moisture the second I step out into the cold.  The Calendula Weather Protection Cream is really intended for protecting babies' faces and lips from harsh weather, but it also works great on hands.  A water-free formula with a similar consistency to petroleum jelly, it creates a protective (but non-occlusive) barrier that helps to seal in moisture.

The Healing Helper
ZibaDel Natural Manuka Honey Skin Cream*
When I haven't been super diligent, the Manuka Honey Skin Cream is the perfect product to reach for.  The consistency is somewhere between a cream and a balm and it's phenomenal for healing chapped or cracked skin and other small skin ailments.  

The Overnight Treatment
Northman Heavy Hand Balm*
Despite the name, the Heavy Hand Balm is really more of a thick cream than a traditional balm.  It's very effective at softening dry hands, but it's pretty rich and heavy and I find it a little sticky on my hands at first, so it's a product I reserve for right before bed.  If you're looking for something truly unscented, this is also great in that regard.  

The Boosters
Weleda Skin Food + Acure Marula Oil
For those times when I want to doctor my own hand cream concoction, I like to incorporate Skin Food and/or Marula Oil.  I love Skin Food on dry elbows and feet, but I find it to be so thick as to be difficult to work into the hands on its own.  Instead, I like to mix a small dollop into another, lighter cream.  The same goes for Marula Oil, which is great for adding an extra shot of moisture to any of the other products on this list.  

Clearly dry hands are not welcome 'round these parts!  What's your favorite hand cream?

*Press sample
Contains affiliate links
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...