Natural/Non-Toxic Picks at Sephora?

Today's post is something a little bit different.  Basically, I'm looking for your input on healthier products that can be found at Sephora.  Usually Sephora is one of those stores I steer clear of, both because of the cloud of artificial fragrance that surrounds it and the general lack of products that I would consider clean enough to use.  They're also notorious (in my mind anyways) for greenwashing and trying to pass toxic products off as safe and natural.  Not to mention just how pricey everything is!  

That said, over the summer, I was gifted a bath set from Sephora that I ended up returning, and now, after five months of sitting on the store credit, I've decided it's about time I spent it.  The thing is, after a couple quick looks at their website, I'm not seeing a lot of things I want to use it on!

Here's what I've been considering...

Bare Minerals 100% Natural Lipcolor
Josie Maran Organic Argan Oil

Alternately, I could put the money towards a bigger splurge like a new flat iron (which I do need, but probably wouldn't buy as expensive a one otherwise) or a Clarisonic (which I've been curious about for a while now, but probably do not actually need.)

What do you think of Sephora?  Do you shop there?  What do you think I should spend my store credit on?


Tag: 11 Random Things About Me

It's taken me a bit longer to get to this than I originally intended, but what else is new?  I was tagged by Hayley of The Flaxen Owl, so here goes!

1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post. 
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blog and tell them that you’ve tagged them.
6. No stuff in the tagging section about ‘you are tagged if you are reading this.’ blah blah blah, you legitimately have to tag 11 people!

11 Random Things About Me:
1.  I love to cook and bake.  I like reading cookbooks for ideas, but I take them more as a guideline - I hardly ever follow recipes exactly as they're written.

2. I'm an insufferable romantic.  For books and movies and the like, I love romance and all things mushy, happy, and sappy.  Interestingly enough, in reality, I'm a lot more down to earth.  I can be a bit of a cynic, so what works for me in entertainment, doesn't necessarily work for me in real life.

3. I like to exercise.  Especially at home, where I can decide what to do myself and there's no one around to watch or get in the way, like at the gym.

4. I'm a night owl, but I'm not very good at sleeping in.  By this I mean, I'll stay up until 5 or 6am and then not be able to sleep in past 10 or so, which creates a bit of a dilemma in life.  Then I'm tired and cranky the rest of the day, which is no fun at all.

5. I'm terrified of needles.
6. I like doing crossword puzzles...but only relatively easy ones.  Obviously certain newspapers publish easier/harder ones and the only one I do consistently is the easy one that I can usually finish.  I'll struggle with the harder ones sometimes, but it's so much more satisfying to be able to finish the whole thing!

7. Caitie is technically a nickname.  My full name is Catherine, but no one calls me that, except my uncle, who refuses to use Caitie, even though I changed it when I was 3 or 4.

8. I'm pretty shy when you first meet me.  I sometimes get mistaken as standoff-ish, but really I just don't know what to say sometimes.  I wish I was someone who was open and vivacious right from the start, but it takes me a bit to get comfortable and warm up to people and then I'm a lot more fun to be around.

9. My favourite food is cheese.  There are just so many yummy things you can make with it!

10. My room looks like it's been taken over by books.  I was very into book swapping for a while and accumulated far too many books.  Now I have bookshelves and piles of books that I really need to something about.

 11. I played the violin for 12+ years.

11 Questions I Had to Answer
1. What is your dream job?
I've actually been sitting here struggling with this question for a bit now.  I'm done with school for the time being, which didn't lead to any big job or epic life plans, and lately I've been stuck trying to figure out what to do next.  To be completely honest, I'm not really sure what my dream job is at the moment.

2. One of your favourite things from your childhood?  Could be a friend, game, memory, etc.
My family dog had this thing he did where he'd run full force at you and veer off at the very last second before running into you.  I remember when we first brought him home, I was about 5, and he was bigger than me and he started doing this.  Until we realized it was just a game he liked to play, it was a little alarming!

3. Where would you love to travel?
Greece.  I don't really have a cohesive reason, but I love the water and Greece always looks so beautiful in photos.  I'd love to travel there one day. 

4. Who is your favourite character from a TV show/movie?  Why?
I love Charlotte from Sex and the City (the TV show though, not so much the movies!) There's just something about how sweet, silly, naive, romantic, and always hopeful she is that I find really appealing.

5. What prompted you to start your blog?
I'd been reading beauty blogs for a while, but I hadn't found very many that focused specifically natural and non-toxic products.  Since starting the blog, I've happily found a bunch more with similar focuses, which is awesome!

6. What is one thing you always have to have with you?
Lip balm.  If my lips get at all dry, I have a tendency to chew on them or start flaking the skin off, often without even noticing what I'm doing.  Having something on my lips stops me from doing this, so I always carry at least one lip balm with me.

7. Are you more of an indoor or outdoor type?
Probably indoors.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things I love to do outdoors, but I generally spend a lot more time indoors than out.

8. What is one bad habit you have?
Procrastinating.  With school work especially, I was always the queen of the last minute essay or exam prep.  In other areas I do it a lot less, but I've still been known to put off things I really don't want to do.

9. One person you would love to meet and why?  This can be anyone in the world, past or present.
I'm drawing a complete blank on this one right now. 

10. Do you have a guilty pleasure?  If so, what?
Cake!  Which I guess isn't that guilty a pleasure by itself, but I am a big fan of dessert for breakfast :)

11. If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
I've always wanted a pig.  Realistically, I'd never get one unless I had an appropriate living situation, which is unlikely to ever happen, since I kind of love the city, but ever since I was a kid, I've wanted a pet pig. 

11 Questions for the People I Tag
1. What's your favorite thing to cook?
2. Do you prefer your hair up or down?
3. What was the last good book you read?
4. Describe yourself in five words or less.
5. If you could only use two makeup products, what would you choose?
6. Do you like talking on the phone?
7. What's one thing most people would be surprised to know about you?
8. Do you exfoliate your skin?  How often?  What do you use?
9. Do you like to stay in or go out?
10. What's your favorite/least favorite non-physical thing about yourself?  Why?
11. What do you do to de-stress?

11 People I Tag
1. Turby and John
2. Vulcan Butterfly
3. Going Green Glamorously
4. Green Beauty
5. Power Femme
6. What Leira Yann Loves
7. Vintage Makeup
8. Hues N Blues
9. The Snarky Princess
10. Ma Belle Amie
11. The Green Beauty Bunny

And there you have it...I hope you've learned a little more about me!  Thanks Hayley for tagging me:)  If you end up doing this, feel free to leave a link to your post below.


Witch Hazel: A Quick Update

As I mentioned when  I first bought it, I was completely unprepared for the smell of straight witch hazel extract.  I purchased Humphrey's 100% Witch Hazel Astringent way back at the end of November, but it's taken me this long to actually get around to using it.  I'm still not sure how to describe the scent, but to me, it is completely unappealing and not something I am inclined to put on my face as is.

I decided to try to cover up the smell with essential oils.  I filled a small glass bottle with about an ounce of witch hazel and mixed in some frankincense and eucalyptus essential oils.  It wasn't completely successful in masking the witch hazel smell, but rather smells like a blend of the oils and the witch hazel.  I wouldn't say it smells great, but it's a vast improvement over the witch hazel on its own.  

I originally wanted to try using witch hazel after reading several peoples' experiences with how it had reduced the appearance of large pores.  In fact, even the bottle claims that witch hazel "penetrates deep into pores, removing dirt, oil, and makeup" and "refines and reduces the appearance of enlarged pores."  The pores on and around my nose are a bit more visible than I would like and I was hoping the witch hazel would help with this.  So far, I've been really happy with the results.

I've been using the witch hazel in between washing my face and applying moisturizer for about two weeks now.  At first I was using it all over my face, but I started breaking out on the backs of my cheeks, which tend to be acne-prone.  I don't know for sure if the witch hazel was the cause, but I switched to only using it on my nose and the very center of my forehead and cheeks (the areas I have more visible pores) and my skin has calmed down again.   In terms of reducing the appearance of pores, I've definitely noticed a difference, even in this short time.  On my forehead and cheeks, I can hardly see the pores anymore and on my nose, where they were the worst, I can also see an improvement.

I'll definitely update again once I've used the witch hazel longer, but I'm really happy with it so far.  It's very inexpensive (I paid around $3 for 8 ounces!) and I've actually gotten visible results, which is more than I can say for a lot of pricier toners!


Review: Organic Excellence Wild Mint Shampoo and Conditioner

ETA: Unfortunately, after recent debate over whether Organic Excellence is disclosing full ingredients on their labels, I'm no longer comfortable recommending the company or these products. (Feb. 11, 2013)

As far as I'm concerned, one of the worst things companies can do is reformulate products.  Obviously if a product sucks, reformulating is a good idea, but as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Almost a year ago now my regular shampoo and conditioner got pegged for reformulating and inevitably the new formula did not work for me.  Luckily I had enough of the old stockpiled to last me a while, but as the bottles started to get low, panic set in and I was left madly hunting for a replacement haircare line. 

To make a long story short, I decided on Organic Excellence and have been using it since mid-November.  As it turns out, I think I prefer it to my old shampoo/conditioner, and to sweeten the deal, it also costs less than what I was previously using!  It's unlikely I would have tried a new shampoo/conditioner otherwise, so, I guess the moral of the story is.......reformulations aren't always a bad thing after all.

"A luxurious hair therapy, free of the harsh chemicals Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate found in most shampoos. Our Wild Mint Shampoo is specially formulated to moisturize, maintain a healthy pH balance, prevent hair loss, stimulate growth, and protect against ultra-violet rays and air pollution. Restores moisture, shine, and body for beautiful hair. Ideal for all hair types."  

A couple weeks ago, Bronwen from Tested on Human wrote about her troubles getting her non-bald spot clean, which reminded me of my struggles with the same thing before switching to this shampoo.  While I was waiting for my Organic Excellence to arrive, I ran out of shampoo and in desperation started using my body wash as shampoo.  Even though I've never before (or since) noticed my hair get greasy in this particular spot, I ended up with the same problem and couldn't manage to get the back of my hair clean!  Imagine my immense relief when the Wild Mint Shampoo finally arrived and succeeded in getting this spot (and the rest of my head) squeaky clean in just one wash! 

In addition to it's great cleaning ability, it smells great - pepperminty and slightly sweet, just like a candy cane.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know that sometimes even naturally scented products bother me, but neither this nor the conditioner have given me any troubles on that front.  AND, it lathers to a pretty decent frothy lather.  Maybe not quite on par with the lather you'd get from a conventional SLS shampoo, but a lot more than many other natural shampoos and definitely enough to satisfy my desire for bubbles.

"Wild Mint Conditioner moisturizes without coating your hair, building up or creating a heavy feeling. It prevents split ends and hair loss, promotes growth, and calms frizz and static electricity. For manageability, deep conditioning, luxurious body, and a beautiful shine, nothing compares to Wild Mint Conditioner. Ideal for all hair types"
I have curly and quite often frizzy and tangled hair, but this conditioner does a great job in all respects.  In the shower, it rinses out easily and leaves my hair feeling soft and silky, without weighing it down or leaving any kind of residue or oiliness.  The conditioner scent is somewhat fainter than the shampoo - it still smells pleasant though and just a bit minty.

The Final Verdict
I'm really happy with both the shampoo and conditioner.  The combination of the two leaves my hair clean, soft, and shiny - and really, what more can you ask for?  The mint scent is pleasant, but not overpowering -  I notice the scent when I'm using the products, but it isn't something that I can smell on my hair once it's dry.  Actually, I do kind of wish the scent would linger a little more, but that's not a deal breaker for me.  Also, for anyone concerned about such things, neither of these products give you that cold, tingly feeling that some peppermint products do.  

The price point is also very reasonable, although it does fluctuate a bit depending on where you purchase them.  They are available for $15.95 each direct from Organic Excellence or $12.85 from iherb (Plus you can get $5 off your first iherb purchase with the code ITI429.)  I believe they're also sold at some Whole Foods.   All in all I'm really happy with these and would recommend giving them a try if you're looking for a new natural and non-toxic shampoo or conditioner.


My Top 11 Makeup Products of 2011

I know this post is almost two weeks late, so first off, I want to appologize for letting the blog lag for so long!  I started a new job right before the holidays and I've been working 6 out of 7 days, which hasn't left much time for blogging...or anything else for that matter!  It's been hectic, but things are settling down now, so I hope to be able to keep more on track with blogging again.

2011 was a big year for me in terms of trying new products.  After not using much makeup for the several years previous, I got a lot more into makeup towards the end of 2010 and have discovered a lot of great companies and products since then.  A lot of these I've reviewed before in more detail, in which case I'll link the original review in case you'd like more information.  Now, without further delay, onto my top 11 makeup picks of 2011:

1) Lucy Minerals Lucy Light Foundation in Light - I only discovered this towards the end of the year, but I've been wearing it pretty much every day since then.  It gives a really natural, flawless coverage and hasn't irritated my skin at all.  You can find my more detailed review here.

2) Silk Naturals Sleep in a Jar Under Eye Concealer in Light Peach - This does a great job of hiding dark circles and also generally brightens the whole eye area.  I reviewed it here.

3) Detrivore Cosmetics Eye Shadow Primer - After a lot of searching for a natural eye shadow primer, I found Detrivore Cosmetics.  This primer does a great job of holding onto loose eye shadows.  It also decreases creasing and intensifies colors.  Detrivore has since released new primers in black and white that I'm interested in trying, but as of now, I've only used the original.  Full review is here.

4) Jade Esthetics Soothing (Jing) Eye Drops - I'm not sure if Jade Esthetics is still around.  I got these years ago from a naturopath I was seeing and recently rediscovered them.  I don't really use eye drops in the traditional sense, but after hearing about people using Visine as a foiling medium for mineral shadows, I decided to give this a try.  These are water based eye drops that contain only distilled water, aloe vera, eye bright, cineraria, and vitamin C, but I find they do a better job than straight water.  I tend to only foil eye shadows when I use them as eye liner and this makes them less likely to move or smudge throughout the day.

5) Zuzu Luxe The Mascara in Onyx - I tried a couple other mascaras in 2011, but this, which has been my go to mascara for the last several years, is still my favourite.  It's buildable and can create more dramatic lashes than other natural mascaras I've tried.  It also doesn't smudge, run or flake.  More details are here.

6) The Chequered Lily Apothecary Eye Shadow in #15 Neverwhere - You'll notice this is the only eye shadow that made it onto this list.  I'm a bit of an eye shadow junky and since I have far too many to choose from, I really like to vary what I use day to day.  In spite of that, I immediately fell in love with Neverwhere when I bought some samples from The Chequered Lily Apothecary during their Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale.  It's described as a "warm, dirty pinked-grey with pink and gold reflect," but to me it looks more like a medium golden brown with pink sparkles.  I mostly only buy eye shadow samples and I rarely even get through those, but I managed to use up Neverwhere already and was quick to buy a full size.  Review and swatches of The Chequered Lily will be coming up soon.

7) Young Living Lavender Lip Balm - I've tried a lot of lip balms recently and have actually been writing up a big lip balm comparison post that'll go up sometime in the next week or two, but I guess this will spoil the results early by revealing my top pick!  This is a really creamy lip balm with that perfect texture somewhere between overly thick and waxy and too thin or oily.  It does a great job keeping my lips hydrated, even in these dry winter months.

8) Revolution Organics Freedom Lip Gloss in Innocent - I won this a while back in a giveaway from The Healthy Beauty Project and I'm so glad I did!  It retails for $26, which is more than I'd be likely to spend on a lipgloss, so I doubt I would have tried it otherwise.  Ironically, at first I wasn't a huge fan of this gloss because of how sheer it is, but at some point I did a complete 180, because now I love it!  In fact, I just noticed I'm having to scrape the sides of the tube to get anything out and I'm so sad to see it run out!

9) LUVU Beauty Lip Liners in Classic Red, Blush and Candy - I really like using lip liners when I need my lip color to be long lasting.  I use these to fill in the whole lip and then top with a balm or gloss and I know my lip color will still be there hours later.  Blush is the most natural of these three, a mauvy-pink that's great for everyday.  Classic Red is, as the name implies, a classic, bright, pinup red shade.  More than any other lip colour, reds make me nervous, so I especially appreciate that this one won't smear or go anywhere.  Candy is a super bright fuschia.  Review and swatches are here.

10) Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Lipstick in Soft Kiss - This is another product that stood out in 2011, even though I haven't had it for very long.  It's a beautiful baby pink color that is perfect with a smokey eye.  Soft Kiss is also creamier in texture than the other color I have in this lipstick, Karma.  Review and swatches of both colours are here.

11) Silk Naturals Lip Products - Saving the best for last, these are probably my favourite discovery of 2011.  I decided not to even try and pick specific colours.  Some colours get more use, but I actually use and genuinely like every single colour I have.  Silk Naturals has tons of colors to choose from and several formulas of lip products - kisser slickers, butter creams, vegan lipsticks, and liquid lip gloss to name a few - and I've liked all the formulas I've tried.  I went through a few of the different formulas in more detail here.  If you're in the market for new lip products, I definitely recommend giving Silk Naturals a try!

Phew!  That ended up being longer than I anticipated.  Looking back on these, I just realized almost half of these were lip products.  Oh well!

And because late is better than never - I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season and wish you all the best for the new year :)