Review: The Chequered Lily Apothecary

I know a lot of people don't like using loose eye shadows, but aside from the stress of traveling with them, I don't find them any more difficult to work with than pressed.  Which is a good thing, since if you've ever looked for natural pressed makeup, you'll know just how difficult it is to find without silicones and other nasties.  

Today, I'm excited to show you these shadows from The Chequered Lily Apothecary, an etsy-based store that makes what is possibly my favorite eye shadow shade ever.  More on that later!

Vary by colour.  The five I have do not, but some colours contain FD&C dyes, so please refer to the individual listings if these are something you choose to avoid.   

$6.50 for a 5-gram sifter jar (about 1 gram of product.)  Samples are also available.

No flash.  (L to R) Neverwhere, Mr. Wednesday, Gilty, Ivy, Alice
With flash.  (L to R) Neverwhere, Mr. Wednesday, Gilty, Ivy, Alice

My Thoughts
I guess I've already gone and spoiled things by announcing early on that one of my all-time favourite eye shadows would be making an appearance in this review.  Let's start there. Neverwhere is my my idea of a perfect neutral.  It's neutral but not boring; sparkly and shimmery, but not to disco ball standards.  It's dark enough that it works in the crease but light enough for a lid colour too.  The shop describes it as "warm, dirty pinked-grey with pink and gold reflect," but to me it's just the perfect golden brown.  It does have visible pink sparkles in it, but they blend in without looking gaudy or taking over.  Seriously, this colour is magic.  Even as just as an all over wash of colour, it makes you look perfectly sophisticated and put together.  And because my photos aren't doing it justice, here are a couple from the store:
Alice, a beautiful pale blue with a golden duochrome, is the other standout among the shades I have.  I sometimes struggle wearing blues, but the gold somehow manages to make it more wearable.  Again, I borrowed these to give you a clearer idea of the colour:
In terms of formula, these eye shadows are fantastic too.  They're nicely pigmented, apply smoothly and blend like a dream.  Even with the high sparkle content in some colours, they never feel rough or gritty.

The Bottom Line
The Chequered Lily makes top notch eye shadows.  The colours are complex and unique and I've received only the best service as well.  More specifically, Neverwhere is a favorite - certainly one of my most worn shadows.  If you're a fan of neutrals, you NEED it in your life.  I realized when taking the photos for this post that mine is starting to run out (cue eery music!)  I'll be ordering a backup (or three) and I'm interested in trying some other colours too.   Highly, highly recommended.


November Natural Beauty Box: First Impressions

The Natural Beauty Box is the new sample box on the block.  Launched over the summer by The Natural Beauty Store, it's a subscription service, much like Birchbox, that contains 10-15 deluxe samples of products that promise to be at least 95% natural.  The Natural Beauty Box promises no foil samples and also that they will never include the same product twice.  I signed up for the November box, and it arrived today!

The box is available worldwide, but the cost does vary depending on location.  In the US and Canada, it will cost you $20, in the UK, £19.50, and anywhere else, $32.  There are also discounts if you purchase a subscription for six months or a year.  The box arrived at my door, regular brown cardboard and unassuming, but when I opened it, I found this:

Cute packaging is definitely a go!  Inside the bag were all the samples, as well as an envelope containing my invoice, a list of products (and coupon codes should you wish to purchase the full size products), and a card detailing the company's new lipstick project.  But, I'm sure what you're most interested in seeing is what products came in the box!   

 Clockwise from top left, I received...
> Equal Exchange Organic Chocolate 
>  Native Touch Rooting Bear Rub
> Dr. Emerald Golden Berries Extra Moisturizing Facial Cream
> Queen Oompabulous Glam-Dust Loose Eye Shadows in Fallen Star and Fairy Wings
> Fruition Papaya Orange Split End Saver
> Delizioso Cream Stick Eye Shadow in Bronze Sunlight
> Fruition Blue Raspberry Lip Yum
> Delizioso Sour Cherry Whip Lip Scrub
> L'Sensuelle Natural Aphrodisiac Sold Perfume
> Temptations Bath 'n Body Cupcake Soap  

In all, that's 10 products: 6 samples and 4 full size.  The bottom of the information sheet lists the box's total value as $92.

My Thoughts
I'm a little conflicted on this box.  Obviously the $92 value is a lot more than what I paid, which is great on paper, but in reality, there are several products in this box that I will be passing along to others, since I know already I won't be using them. 

The information sheet lists ingredients for most products, but it does refer you to the website for a couple.  Problem is, I can't seem to locate those products on the website at all, let alone their ingredients.  Of the ones that do have ingredients, several contain fragrance oils, which I guess is where the 5% not natural ingredients come in.  I'm picky about scents and, at least to my nose, most of the box smells like synthetic fragranceI'm most excited about the Eye Shadow pencil and I'll also be hanging on to the Rooting Bear Rub, the chocolate, and the loose eye shadow samples, but because of the fragrance ingredients or lack of ingredients all together, the rest will likely be looking for new homes.  

In terms of customer service, I would offer some constructive criticism too.  To get a box, you need to buy it the month before you will receive it.  (I paid for mine back in October.)  During all that time, I heard nothing from the company until earlier today when I received a shipping notice.  Even an automatic acknowledgement goes a long way - with only a Paypal invoice, I was left wondering if they had even received my order!  Also, not to nitpick too much, but the site says boxes are shipped mid-month and will arrive mid- to late month.  I live about two hours drive from where the box was shipped, and I received mine today, November 29.  Assuming all the boxes are shipped around the same time, this means that anyone outside of the province will not be receiving their November box in November.  The Facebook page has already been buzzing with customers wondering where there boxes are, and in addition to any unsatisfied customers, this kind of schedule also leaves the company unnecessarily susceptible to Paypal disputes.

The Bottom Line
I'm disappointed to not be able to give a more universally positive review.  The Natural Beauty Box is a new subscription service and I definitely think there are kinks that need to be ironed out, in terms of logistics/customer service and perhaps also product selection.  That said, there's lots of potential here, so hopefully the company will step it up and get there!  And while I'm not sorry to have purchased it, at least for now, I won't be buying another box.  For me, samples boxes are fun on occasion, but it makes more sense to put my $20 towards a product I know I will love, as opposed to a bunch of samples I may or may not even use.  

What do you think of sample boxes?  Are you subscribed to any?


2012 Holiday Gift Guide Part #3

Today, I've got the last part of my gift guide: gifts that are a bit more of a splurge, but still reasonable at $50 or less.

1. Priti NYC Make Your Own Nailpolish Kit ($39.99)
Your choice of four Priti NYC nail polishes.  Polishes are $13.50 individually, so even if it's not a gift, you save a good bunch by ordering them in the kit!

2. Pai Rosehip 3-Step Facial Set ($40)
This is a limited edition set that comes with Pai's best selling Rosehip Bioregenerate Oil, their new Rosehip Bioregenerate Face Mask, and a muslin face cloth.  As of right now, the face mask is only available in the kit.  As an added bonus, if you're shopping over this Thanksgiving weekend, Pai is offering this set free with purchases over $100.

3. Tsi-La Organics Deluxe Sample Kit ($50)
This reminds me a lot of some of the perfume kits Sephora comes out with this time of year.  Basically, you receive eight sample perfumes and a voucher for one mini bottle.  You have 90 days to try the samples out and pick a favorite.  Then, all you have to do is email Tsi-La with your voucher code and which perfume you would like, and they'll ship you out the mini bottle of your choice.

4. Amala Beauty Handbag Essentials Kit ($44)
Amala Beauty is a higher end European skincare and bodycare line with fantastic ingredients.  I don't have any personal experience with their products, but they all sound pretty dreamy.  This kit includes their Soothing Lip Salve and travel sizes of both their Rejuvenating and Hydrating Hand Creams.  All of which would come in very handy during the colder months, I'm sure!

5. RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek Color ($36)
RMS Beauty has become a bit of a cult favorite in the natural beauty community and the Lip2Cheek Colors sound fantastic.  Pictured here is Smile, a coral/pink that would be gorgeous as both a lip colour and a blush.

6. Afterglow Cosmetics Holiday's Little Helpers Kit ($47)
I don't buy a lot of 'higher end' makeup, but of what's out there, Afterglow Cosmetics is probably the brand I would most like to try next.  This holiday kit includes their Aloe Concealer, Glow Bronzer, Lip Soother, and Hydra Gloss.  The concealer and bronzer are tailored to your skin tone, while the lip soother and gloss stay the same across all the kits.  Individually, these would cost $96, which, for me anyways, definitely makes the $47 price tag easier to swallow.

I had a lot of fun putting these together, and I hope they were helpful if you're looking for gift ideas!  Since there's no way to include everything, I'd love to know: what's caught your eye this holiday season?  Are you coveting anything specific?


2012 Holiday Gift Guide Part #2

Today I've got the second installment of my gift guide: gifts that cost a little more, but are still very affordable.  This bunch will cost you more than $10, but still less than $25.

1. Kitchen Stories Organic Tea Bar ($16)
Your choice of three organic tea blends, served up in cute (and practical) tins.  A great choice for any tea drinker!

2. Sugared Beauty Merry Mint Value Set ($20)
Full sizes of Sugared Beauty's coveted sugar scrub and their newer body wash, both in merry mint scent: perfect for the holiday season.

3. Book of Shadows Magnetic Makeup Palette ($16.99)
These palettes are gorgeous!  They're magnetic freestyle palettes which, like the Z or Uni Palettes, will hold any depotted makeup pans.  Unlike their mass-produced counterparts, these are handmade and come in a great range of colours and patterns.

4. A Perfume Organic Sample Set ($22)
Nontoxic perfumes can be pretty pricey, which is why this sample set is so fabulous.  Here, you - or your giftee - can try all five of A Perfume Organic's scents before committing to any one.

5. Biggs & Featherbelle Mini Soap Sampler ($21.99)
Eight half-size handmade soaps, all wrapped up and ready for gifting.  You could also easily split the set up to give to more than one person.  Biggs & Featherbelle has several other tempting gift sets too.

6. Real Techniques Core Collection ($18)
Good quality brushes make a huge difference to how your makeup applies, especially when it comes to face makeup like foundation and concealer.  This set includes all the brushes you'll need to do your base and the case doubles as a stand too.

7. 100% Pure Twinkle Twinkle Gift Set ($19)
100% Pure has a whole bunch of holiday gift sets available.  This is their smallest makeup one, which comes with their Halo Satin Eye Shadow (shimmery pearl) and Pewter Cream Eye Shadow Pencil (pearly silver.) 

And that's two out of three done!  Keep and eye out for the final part of my gift guide tomorrow.


2012 Holiday Gift Guide Part #1

I'm excited to have actually gotten my holiday gift guide together fairly early this year!  I've decided to split it into three parts, according to price.  Today, I've got my top picks for under $10.

Intelligent Nutrients products smell phenomenal and this soap has just the right amount of kitsch to go along with it.  Great for that person who's always extra busy or stressed. 

This is such a clever idea!  These glass ornaments are filled with enough organic mulling spices to make a gallon of wine or cider.  The store also sells equally gorgeous ornaments filled with different teas and coffee if that's more to your liking.

Peppermint castile soap: a million and one uses and Ecosoapia's packaging is definitely cute enough to make a gift of it!  Also available in five other scents.
Badger's lovely cocoa butter lip balm in beautiful colours!  One side is tinted and the other is a translucent shimmer.  Four colours to choose from. 

As I was typing this, it hit me that dry shampoo as a gift could potentially give the wrong impression, so make sure you're giving this to the right person!  Great between washes or just to give extra texture to your hair.

These tinned soy wax candles are free of any petroleum, colorants, or synthetic fragrances.  Scented with peppermint and vanilla, they sound perfect for the holidays.

Weleda's award-winning Skin Food, is super festive and all dressed up for the holidays!   I don't see these on the U.S. Weleda site, but they're available with free shipping from Naturisimo.  They've got crackers of a few other Weleda products too.

Crazy Rumors makes fantastic vegan lip balms all year round, but the gingerbread flavour is a limited edition for the holidays, so if gingerbread is your thing, I suggest picking it up soon.

I reviewed these a couple months ago and they remain one of my favorite lip glosses.  Beautiful colours, affordable, and they feel great on the lips.

Or really, any mineral eye shadows.  Most indie shadows will cost you less than $6, but I love how Shiro offers mini jars for even less.  Other great brands include Darling Gift Cosmetics (which also offers mini jars), Silk Naturals, and The Chequered Lily Apothecary.   

I hope this was helpful if you're on the lookout for natural and non-toxic gift ideas.  Parts 2 and 3 will be posted over the next few days.


Review: Blûm Naturals All-Purpose Cleansing Wipes

 I've never used makeup wipes before, but after seeing loads of bloggers praise different brands of wipes, I decided to give Blûm Naturals a try.  Blûm does make a line of actual makeup wipes, but I bought the all-purpose ones instead, as the ingredients in the two lines are very similar and there's no fragrance free option in the makeup wipes.  The all-purpose wipes cost less too!

Just about actual size
Product Description: Dermatologist tested to be hypoallergenic, non-irritating & safe for babies. Infused with Aloe Vera; it is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes & proteins. This convenient travel size pack can be used anywhere, anytime throughout the day.  Free of synthetic preservatives or fragrances, parabens, SLS, animal testing.

Ingredients: Aqua (water), Ethyl Alcohol, Decyl Glucoside, Organic Aloe Vera Extract, Potassium Sorbate

Price: $1.69 from Vitacost or $1.60 from iherb

My Thoughts: If you like makeup wipes, these are are a great natural option.  They're thick enough that I haven't had any issues with them tearing and they remove most makeup very easily.  Mascara can be a bit challenging - it does come off, but it takes a little more effort.  The container does a good job keeping air out and and I haven't found that the wipes have dried out at all since opening them about a month ago.  I love the small size of the travel wipes too.  They're big enough for most jobs, and you can always use more than one if you need to.  Since they're multi-purpose, it also comes in handy that the canister is so small - just about 3 inches tall.  It's definitely a good size to tote around in your purse, and maybe even small enough to attach to your keychain.    

The Bottom Line: Usually I genuinely enjoy the ritual of my regular skincare routine, so these aren't a product I reach for every day.  Still, I'm glad to have them on hand for the occasional night when you just can't bring yourself to wash your face the regular way.  In fact, even if you aren't a makeup wipes kind of gal, these come in handy for all kinds of things - taming flyaway hairs, dusting small areas, cleaning sticky fingers and more!


Nourish Organic Body Polish Review

This time of year, it's super important to exfoliate your skin.  The colder weather makes our skin more susceptible to moisture loss, and if you aren't sloughing off any already dead skin, it's that much harder to keep your skin hydrated.  There are plenty of different ways to exfoliate, but one of the simplest is to use a scrub like Nourish's Organic Body Polish.

Product Description: Every shower or bath brings with it the opportunity to renew and refresh skin, leaving it smooth and glowing with good health. Simply cleanse with the USDA certified organic blend of ground murumuru and cupuacu seeds, corn cob nutrients, forbidden and jade pearl rice, nourishing aloe, and pomegranate oil. Gentle enough to use every day.

Ingredients: Organic aloe barbadensis leaf juice, organic cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, purified water, potassium hydroxide, organic helianthus annuus (sunfower) seed oil, organic sesamum indicum (sesame) seed oil, organic jade pearl rice, organic cyamopsis tetragonoloba (guar) gum, organic cocos nucifera (coconut) milk, tocopherol (vitamin E), organic punica granatum (pomegranate) seed oil, organic theobroma grandiflorum (cupuacu) seed, organic astrocaryum (murumuru) seed, organic forbidden rice, organic corn cob grit, organic camellia sinensis leaf (green tea) extract.

Price: $9.99 from Nourish or $8.25 from Vitacost

My Thoughts: This is a fantastic product to have in your beauty arsenal.  Unlike a lot of other scrubs that are oil based, Nourish's Body Polish is a scrub housed in a castile soap base.  This means that while it exfoliates, it also lathers up and serves as a body wash too.  Also, while a lot of other scrubs are made from sugar or salt, the grittiness here is from two kinds of rice, corn grits, and murumuru and cupuacu seeds.  It's all finely milled and it really is gentle enough to use every day, just like Nourish claims.  It's also not scented, though the ingredients do give it a light, fresh, slightly starchy smell, kind of like cornmeal.  

The combination of being unscented and the gentleness of the exfoliants convinced me to try it as a face scrub and I've been loving using it on my face also.  Sometimes I do wish it was a little rougher for my body, but that same gentleness makes it perfect for the face, where it leaves my skin cleansed, exfoliated, and super soft.  For that reason, I wouldn't change a thing about this product!  It's become my new favorite face scrub and I've also been enjoying it as a body polish in rotation with other coarser scrubs.  

The Bottom Line: Nourish's products have awesome ingredients, are super affordable, and if the body polish is anything to go on, are fantastic quality too.  I'll definitely be checking out more of their line in the future!

And, in case you're new to Vitacost, you can save $10 off your first order by signing up here


Alima Pure Blush Review

Before I jump into things, I should probably mention that I'm pretty new to wearing blush.  In fact, until a couple months ago, blush was the one makeup product I avoided like the plague.  Recently, however, I've become a convert and have come to appreciate how even a subtle blush can really add dimension to the face.  With that in mind, I've got my latest blush discoveries from Alima Pure to share with you today.

Alima Pure is a mineral makeup company founded on the old adage of less is more.  Less ingredients, but still maximum quality and impact.  They make a whole range of products, including more than 60 foundation shades and both matte and shimmer lines of eyeshadow and blush.  Today, I've got five blushes to show you: four from their Luminous Shimmer line and one of their Satin Mattes.

Price: Full Size: $20; Sample: $1.50

Ingredients: Mica (CI 77019), May contain [+/-]: Iron oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), titanium dioxide (CI 77891).

Clockwise from top left: Freja, Sospiro, Rosa, Mimosa, Guava

Rosa: "Soft, shimmery pink for light to medium skin. Like a bouquet of pink roses for your cheeks, but without the thorns, Rosa is what a blush was meant to be!"    
A really pretty cool pink.  Gives a nice 'barely there' flush.

Guava: "Warm peach packed with gold. The perfect date-night blush, the luminous finish looks gorgeous in candlelight, and the peachy-pink tone is soft and feminine without seeming too innocent."  
Glowy bronzy-peach.   

Freja: :Light-to-medium warm pink with very subtle shimmer. Afraid of sparkle, but want a bit of the glow that a shimmer blush can give? Freja is your goddess! Almost matte, but better, and looks great on most skins."    
Warm, peachy-tan shade with very little shimmer.  Looks very natural.

Sospiro: "Intense coral-pink with golden sparkle. Strolling through Venice in the sunshine? Sospiro is the perfect blush to make sure that your vacation pictures capture that radiant glow!"   
To me, this reads more as a coppery russet than a coral or pink.  Surprisingly wearable, even on my fair skin.

Mimosa: "Pale peachy pink for fair skin. Are you a little blush-shy? Want a hint of pink, but don’t want to be overwhelmed by it? Mimosa is your new best friend."    
Pretty colour, but unfortunately, it doesn't really show up on my cheeks!  

Left to Right: Rosa, Mimosa, Guava, Freja, Sospiro

My Thoughts: Judging by these five colours, the formulas of both the matte and shimmer blushes are impeccable.  I'd say they have medium pigmentation, which just so happens to be my personal preference for blush.  They're pigmented enough that a little product goes a long way, but not so pigmented that they go on splotchy or are hard to blend.  Just the opposite in fact; they blend very easily and I'm not left struggling with any harsh lines or blush stripes.  I like applying loose blushes with a duo-fiber brush, first stippling the colour on and then blending it out, and this method works beautifully with these blushes. 

I will say I was a little underwhelmed when I first saw the blushes in their jars, but even just swatching them, I was a much happier camper.  The only one I was disappointed with is Mimosa, and only because it's so pale as to be almost invisible on my cheeks.  Other than that, I'm really happy with the colours I chose.  The shimmer blushes have a definite sheen to them, but it's not anything even close to obnoxious or chunky glitter.  None of the these shades are super bright or dramatic; rather, they're fantastic everyday colours that I can see myself reaching for a lot!

And now, for something I haven't done before!  Here's a quick FOTD wearing Sospiro:

> Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Foundation in Geisha
> Silk Naturals Sleep in a Jar in Light Peach
> Alima Pure Luminous Shimmer Blush in Saspiro

> Pollen Cosmetics Eyeshadow in Future Sunrise
> ZuzuLuxe Mascara in Onyx

> Silk Naturals Buttercream Lip Glaze in Dame


DIY Cinnamon Orange Body Oil

I'm going to come right out and say it: I'm not that great at moisturizing.  Sure, I do a fine job moisturizing my face, but when it comes to my body, it's a step I often skip.  Lotions and butters can take too long to absorb and often need to be reapplied frequently to reap the benefits.  There are tons of body oils on the market too and I've often wondered if an oil might be more effective.  That said, the frugalista in me has always scoffed at buying something that would be cheaper and, at least in theory, very simple to make myself.  I'm happy to report, after finally trying my hand at concocting my own, it really is just as easy as I was hoping! 

1/8 cup sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon argan oil
4 Vitamin E capsules, punctured and drained
5 drops orange essential oil
2 drops cassia essential oil
3 drops copaiba essential oil

I mixed the sunflower oil, argan oil, and Vitamin E together until well combined.  Then I played around with the essential oils until I was happy with the scent.  Can't get much easier than that!

My Thoughts
I'm happy to report that this works amazingly.  I've been much better about moisturizing and have been using it every other day after I shower.  I towel off just a little and then quickly apply the oil all over, avoiding any sensitive bits.  The slight dampness left on my skin helps the oil to soak right in without leaving any greasy residue.  It does such a good job moisturizing that I don't find I need to reapply between showers.  If you do want to use it on completely dry skin, it takes a little longer to absorb, but it still works great.

The smell is perfect for this time of year too.  I shower at night and I can smell the oil on me, at least through the next morning.  It also works great as a perfume oil.  Once the smell wears off, I've been dabbing a little on my pulse points so I can luxuriate even longer in the warm, cinnamony goodness. 

Other Tips 
  • Make sure you are using high quality essential oils.  My choice is still Young Living, since I know they are free of any additives and processed without chemicals.
  • You can scent your oil however you like, but take into consideration the individual properties of any essential oils you are using.  For example:
    • Orange oil is photosensitive, meaning it increases sun sensitivity.  I use the oil at night, so I'm not overly concerned, but if you are planning to use it during the day, you might want to avoid citrus oils.
    • Cassia is a hot oil.  Keep hot oils to a minimum or you risk discomfort or burning on application. 
  • You can vary the base oils too.  I used mainly sunflower oil and boosted it with argan oil and Vitamin E, since I already had those on hand, but other oils like jojoba, grapeseed, sesame, or a mix of more than one of these, would also be effective.
  • Store in a glass container.  Essential oils can eat through plastic, which aside from being potentially messy, means that the toxins in the plastic can leech into your oil.  Not good!

What's your favorite moisturizer?  Ever tried making your own body oil?