31 May 2015

Green Beauty Wishlist: The Spring/Summer Edit

I've been on a low-buy since the beginning of the year and I've got to say, five months in, I'm pretty proud of how well it's been going!  I realize that budgeting and limited spending is a lot more effective for me than going on a total no-buy or spending ban.  Being able to spend - even conservatively - doesn't leave me feeling horribly deprived, which takes a lot of the pressure off and makes the whole process much less stressful.  It's kind of like the difference between a lifestyle change and the ups and downs of binging and dieting.

Regardless of spending, between reading blogs and scrolling through my Instagram feed, I'm constantly adding products to my wishlist.  Here's a look at what's caught my eye recently:




Under Eye Concealer
I'm still struggling to find a replacement for the discontinued Une Skin Glow Pencil I used to love.  Most days, I only wear concealer under my eyes, so I tend to like something that is illuminating and lightweight, but also decently long wearing.  I'm currently debating between three: da lish Illumination Concealer, Jane Iredale Active Light Under-Eye Concealer, and Studio 78 Off We Go Concealer.  I really don't want to accumulate any more concealer rejects than I already have, so if you've used any of these - or have any other concealer recommendations - I'd love to know.

Aquarian Bath Tooth Powder
In my ongoing search for more glycerin free toothpaste options, I keep coming across Aquarian Bath's tooth powders.  The powders have a non-abrasive base of food-grade Bentonite clay, activated charcoal  and myrrh powder and unlike a lot of other tooth powders, do not contain any baking soda, which can - over time - damage tooth enamel.   The clay and charcoal have detoxifying properties and help to wash away bacteria, while myrrh powder has been shown to improve gum health.  I'm torn between the Mint and Berry Hibiscus flavors - both sound pretty great!

Trilogy CoQ10 Eye Concentrate
Along with a concealer, I've yet to find an eye product that I've been happy with in regards to both dark circles and puffiness.  I've enjoyed Trilogy products in the past and the CoQ10 Eye Concentrate - which claims to brighten and tone with CoQ10, caffeine, licorice root, and horse chestnut - sounds very promising.

Josh Rosebrook
Josh Rosebrook products have phenomenal ingredients and are packed with unique botanicals, and while they've been on my radar for quite some time, I've yet to actually try anything from the line.  Lift is a hair texturizer and volume spray that's garnered rave reviews across the board since it's release earlier this year.  The Moisturizing Cleanser is a pH-balanced cleanser made with aloe, African black soap and various plant oils and herbal infusions that has been on my wishlist for considerably longer.  I'm nearing the bottom of a couple other cleansers, so it's sprung to mind again recently.

Pacifica 7-Free Nail Polish
I've been using the Gloss Top & Base Coat for several weeks now and I like it a lot, which has me eyeing up a couple of Pacifica's actual polishes now.  Pictured above are Turquoise Tiara, a turquoise cream that looks perfect for a summer pedicure, and Unicorn Horn, a sheer, irridescent/pearly color that I think would be pretty both on its own and over other polishes.  

Have you used any of these?  What goodies are on your wishlist this summer?

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28 May 2015

Sample Stash #17: Be Natural Organics (+ a Personal Update)

May has been an extremely slow blogging month for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was a problem with one of my wisdom teeth that had me in bed for more than two weeks.  That's resolved for now, though I may have to get it removed at some point.

As some of you will know, I've been predominantly self-employed for almost a year now and while I've really enjoyed the experience, I realize it isn't what I want to be doing full time right now, so I've decided to start looking for outside work again.  I will still be keeping up with blogging and freelancing, I'm just looking to incorporate something else as well.

Blogging is still a priority and after this past month, I'm hoping to play catch up in June.  I have lots of posts planned and a bunch of exciting products I can't wait to write about, but it will be somewhat dependent on how my work situation plays out.  Getting back in the swing of things, today I want to talk about two samples I was sent by Be Natural Organics.

Hyaluronic Serum*

Made with only hyaluronic acid, water, and aspen bark extract to preserve it, the Hyaluronic Serum has a simple ingredients list, but it delivers nonetheless.  Hyaluronic acid holds many times its weight in water and, as such, is excellent for plumping the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  What's unique about the Hyaluronic Serum is that it uses three sizes of sodium hyalurate molecules.  According to Be Natural Organics, the size of the molecule determines how deeply the hyaluronic acid can penetrate into the skin, so by including three different molecule sizes, the serum is able to target three different layers of the skin.  

The serum has a thin gel consistency and is unscented, so once you start working it into the skin, it really just feels like water.  I like to apply it while my skin is still damp - either from a toner or plain water - to give the hyaluronic acid some moisture to bind to right away, and then I follow up with an oil or cream moisturizer.  Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that can deliver visible results within a short time period, and I found that to be the case with this serum.  Within just a few days, I noticed my skin felt plumper and more hydrated and my smaller fine lines were practically unnoticeable.  It's also softened the appearance of the two deeper lines I have between my eyebrows, though that did take a little longer.  

I'm definitely interested in buying the full size in the future. The sample size lasted me a good couple weeks and I saw results in even that short amount of time.    

Shimmer Illuminating Dry Oil*

I'm not always one for glitter, but something about shimmery oils just screams summer to me.  The Illuminating Dry Oil has a sweet, citrusy scent and a light feel that absorbs fully and really does leave the skin dry to the touch.  The color looks very coppery in the bottle, but on the skin, it sheers out to a beautiful glow.  It's not a glitter bomb and it doesn't add any extra color to the skin, just a sheer wash of golden shimmer.  

I don't have a lot of experience with shimmery oils, so maybe this is typical, but I do find the shimmer doesn't always last as long as I'd like.  It's beautiful for short amounts of time, but tends to fall off and disappear within the first couple hours.  For a night out, I think this oil is great, but if you're looking for something to make your skin glow all day, this probably isn't the ideal product, unless you don't mind reapplying.



Have you tried Be Natural Organics?

*Press sample

20 May 2015

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash + Fortifying Face Balm

Ursa Major first launched as skincare for men, but they've recently rebranded to include us ladies too, and now market themselves as a unisex line.  The company's tagline is "super natural skincare," and under that ethos, each Ursa Major product must be effective, healthy, and sublime.   The entire range is 98-100% natural, as well as gluten-free, toxin-free, cruelty-free, and vegan.  I've been trying out the Fantastic Face Wash* and Fortifying Face Balm* for several weeks and I'm excited to share my thoughts on them.



Fantastic Face Wash
The green beauty world often shies away from foaming cleansers and I used to as well, but I've really come to appreciate them again these last six months or so, and the Fantastic Face Wash is a great option.  With a light gel texture that foams up well, rinses away clean, and does not leave your skin feeling dry, it really is everything you could want in a foaming cleanser.  I also love the scent, a blend with strong notes of black spruce, fir, cedarwood, and spearmint that has me envisioning walking through a lush, minty forest.  The spearmint is just enough to leave your skin feeling very clean and refreshed, but not so much as to cause extreme tingling or discomfort.  The formula also contains sugar cane and fruit extracts to clear pores and dissolve dead skin, and Ursa Major recommends letting the cleanser sit on the skin for 30-60 seconds to allow the acids time to complete this exfoliation. 

Fortifying Face Balm
The Fortifying Face Balm has an impressive ingredients list that includes hydrating aloe vera and sunflower oil, purifying witch hazel and willow bark extract, and anti-aging olive leaf, carrot seed oil, and frankincense resin.  In spite of its name, the Face Balm is closer to what I'd consider a gel moisturizer than a balm.  Packaged in a pump bottle, it has the consistency of a thick serum and absorbs into the skin quickly and with a matte finish.   My skin leans just slightly on the dry side, so while I feel moisturized right after I apply the Face Balm, my skin starts to feel a little dry towards the end of the day unless I combine it with another product.  If you have more normal/combination/oily skin, I think the Face Balm would work great on its own, and if your skin is drier like mine, it layers well with either a face oil or a cream moisturizer.  

In terms of scent, the Face Balm is infused with lavender, lime, spearmint, and rosemary and to me, is very reminiscent of the original Aveda line (way back in the day, before they were sold to Estée Lauder).  It's an herbal scent, but still fresh, and something that could easily suit both men and women.

The Bottom Line
I love Ursa Major's commitment to using high quality, natural ingredients to create products that not only compete with conventional skincare products, but outperform them.  There's also something really appealing about a small capsule collection, but the innate drawback of that is that not every skin type can always be accounted for. In Ursa Major's case, the current lineup is mainly geared towards normal/oily/combination skin, and while I do think the products could still work for anyone - except maybe the extremely dry - I'd love to see the range expanded to include products specifically for drier skinned folks too! 

Have you tried Ursa Major?  What's your favorite product from the line?

*Press sample

8 May 2015

Brand Focus: Mamma Oceania Handmade Soap

The first thing that stood out to me about Mamma Oceania Handmade Soap was their tag line.  After all, it doesn't get much better than "Mermaid Approved Clean," does it?  Add in a cute logo, great ingredients, minimal packaging, and the fact that the soaps are handmade in small batches here in Toronto, and I was sold.  



Anna Mattiuzzo, Mamma Oceania's founder and soaper-in-chief,  was working in fashion PR and publishing when she started making soap for her own personal use.  When she began sharing the soaps with friends and giving them as presents, people loved them and asked for more, and one thing led to another until Mamma Oceania was born.  

Anna was kind enough to send me all eight of her soaps to try and I've been having the best time testing everything out.  The soaps are made with USDA certified organic ingredients and are free of controversial palm and canola oils, as well as artificial colours, fragrances, and preservatives.  The entire line relies on a gentle, moisturizing base of olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, colloidal oatmeal, and banana and Canadian kelp extracts, and each individual soap varies from that point on.  Soaps are cured for four to six weeks using the traditional, cold-process soap method, ensuring that you get a firm, solid, hefty bar of soap that really lasts and won't melt away in just a couple washes.  (Though you'll still want to keep your soap out of the direct shower spray and let it dry between uses to help it along!) 

Each soap produces a beautiful, rich lather that feels very soft and gentle on the skin.  I always keep bar soap at my bathroom sink and I've had several culprits over the years leave me with dry, papery hands, but I haven't had that problem with any of the Mamma Oceania soaps, even through colder weather.  Instead, my skin is consistently left feeling clean, soft, and touchable.  Without any added scent ingredients - either natural or synthetic - the soaps just have a very light, clean scent that's basically undetectable as soon as you rinse off.  

My absolute favorite of the bunch has been the Baby Clean Soap, made with chamomile extract.  It has a slightly creamier scent than some of the others and feels extra soft and almost buttery on the skin.  Other favorites have been the Skin Nourishing Soap with rosehip, and the Gentle Exfoliating Soap with pomegranate and coconut milk.  Regular readers may recall that I don't generally enjoy exfoliating bits in my bar soap, but the Gentle Exfoliating Soap is, as the name suggests, extremely gentle and actually feels basically smooth to the touch.  If you like your soaps extra gritty, this isn't the one for you, but if you prefer a creamy lather with just a hint of exfoliation, it's just the ticket.  Mamma Oceania also makes two face-specific soaps, the Brightening Facial Soap and the Pore Saver Facial Soap, but the entire line is so gentle that I would honestly feel okay using any of them on my face.

Photo Credit
The Bottom Line
Mamma Oceania soaps are especially wonderful for those of us with sensitive skin and noses, but I really think they'd be a treat for any soap lover.  With a rich, creamy lather, an abundance of organic ingredients, small batch manufacturing, and no animal testing, Mamma Oceania is beautiful traditional handmade soap at its best!

The Mamma Oceania website will be set up for transactions very soon, but in the meantime orders can be placed by contacting the company through the websiteFacebook page, and by email.  

For Torontonians, the soaps can regularly be found at Nepal Pari Salon on Front St. W., and Anna will also be at the following markets this Spring:
May 10 - Parkdale Flea
May 23 - Barns Art Market 
May 24 - Echo Beach Flea Market 
June 6 - DuWest Market 
June 13 - Barns Art Market 
June 14 - Annex Family Festival
*Press sample

4 May 2015

April Empties / Products I've Used Up

April was another good month for empties.  I'm still keeping to a low-buy and working to finish things I already have in the hopes of (at least somewhat) streamlining my products, so it's nice to actually see some progress.  This latest batch includes staple products that I've featured many times before, some new things I've never written about, and even a few makeup items!




Kinky-Curly Spiral Spritz   [Review]
Kinky-Curly's Spiral Spritz is great lightweight gel.  I think this is the fourth or fifth bottle I've gone through, and while I sometime need something with a little more hold to get me through the summer humidity, it's fantastic the rest of the year.
Repurchase? If you saw last month's iHerb Haul, you'll know I already did!

Acure Organics Moroccan Argan Stem Cell + Argan Oil Conditioner   [Review]
This conditioner - and it's matching shampoo - are firm favorites of mine.  My hair needs a good amount of moisture and the Argan Stem Cell + Argan Oil Conditioner does the trick with just a small amount of product.
Repurchase? Yes, I already have.

Earthpaste Wintergreen Toothpaste   [Review]
I've been experimenting with other glycerin-free toothpaste options, but Earthpaste is still always on hand as my fallback.  I've tried all the flavours now, and the Wintergreen is my favorite.
Repurchase? Yes, I already have.

Trilogy Line Smoothing Day Cream
Every since finding this $50 moisturizer for a steal at $12.99, I've been periodically stalking Winners for more Trilogy products.  No luck so far, but I'm still optimistic.  The day cream boasts a lot of great ingredients and I enjoyed using it, but it didn't have the magical line smoothing properties I was hoping for.  It's a great moisturizer, but I didn't notice a difference in my fine lines in the three months it took to go through this tube.
Repurchase? Maybe.

Odylique Lemon Butter Hand Smoothie*   [Review]
This is a nice hand cream.  It has a rich, buttery consistency right out of the tube, but easily melts into the skin and is absorbed quickly.  Ingredients like calendula and aloe vera feel very soothing, while avocado oil, cocoa butter, and sea buckthorn extract deeply nourish the skin.  I liked the lemongrass scent initially, but it did wear on me a little towards the end of the tube.
Repurchase? Probably not.  I'm pretty smitten with Andalou's hand creams right now.



Body Lotion Minis
With the intention of not hoarding samples, I used up all my lotion minis this month.  The Honest Face + Body Lotion is unscented and very fast-absorbing, making it the perfect purse hand lotion, but it's not something I'd want in a larger size to use at home or all over my body.  Weleda's lotions are pretty thin in consistency, but they do a great job moisturizing nonetheless and I love the scent of the Sea Buckthorn range.  Nourish Organics' Coconut & Argan Body Lotion isn't available anymore, which is a shame as I really enjoyed it.  Nourish's other lotions - from what I've tried - are a lot less rich and really don't compare.
Repurchase? Maybe the Weleda Sea Buckthorn.  The other three, I don't think so.

Bare English & Co. Vanilla Almond Lip Balm
Bare English have become one of my favorite lip balms these last several months.  The Vanilla Almond scent reminds me of marzipan and was just okay, but the actual lip balm formula was great, as always.
Repurchase? Other flavours, yes.  This particular one, probably not.

Young Living Tranquil
Tranquil is a mix of lavender, cedarwood, and roman chamomile essential oils that smells just incredible.  If you have any trouble falling asleep or turning your mind off, it's a great blend to have on hand.  The rollerball also makes for very easy application.
Repurchase? Yes, I already have.

Acure Organic Argan Oil
I always run a small amount of oil through the ends of my hair after washing and pure argan oil is one of my favorites.  Acure's, which is both high quality and affordable, is great not only for hair, but also face and body.  I like to mix a pump or two into face masks, and also sometimes use it on my cuticles or other dry spots.
Repurchase? Yes, after I work through a few other oils.

John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Detangler (sample)
John Masters' detanglers are lighter conditioners and they just don't do a whole lot for my hair.  The Citrus & Neroli did smell good though.
Repurchase? No.



Revolution Organics Freedom Lip Gloss in Innocent
Revolution Organics' lip glosses are like a lip treatment and gloss in one.  They aren't the absolute glossiest product out there, but they're completely non-sticky and give a lot of moisture and a sheer wash of color.
Repurchase? Not currently available, but if the glosses are re-released, I definitely would.

Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation in Neutral 1 and Beige 1 (samples)
Alima Pure is the mineral foundation of the green beauty world, but I have to say, I wasn't overly impressed.  Both colours were a fine match for my skin - especially Neutral 1 - and the foundation looked good when I first applied it, but it disappeared off my face very quickly.  By lunchtime, my skin was shiny and I could see a good amount of redness coming through on my nose and cheeks, and by about 3PM, I might as well not have been wearing foundation at all.  I don't have oily skin and foundations lasting throughout the day is not something I usually have a problem with, so it was surprising.
Repurchase? No.

Vapour Organic Beauty Concealer in 010*   [Review]
Vapour's concealer is brightening, but has pretty sheer coverage.  The sheerness means you often need to build up a few layers to get decent coverage, but it layers nicely without getting cakey.  It does have a tendency to settle into lines under the eyes, but the luminosity is great in that area, so as long as you don't mind minor touch ups throughout the day, it does the job.
Repurchase? Maybe.

Cheeky Cosmetics Eye Shadow in Pink Champagne and Moonlit Rose (samples)  [Review]
Cheeky Cosmetics is a lovely Canadian mineral makeup company and their eye shadows are both smooth and pigmented.  I used Pink Champagne as an inner corner - and sometimes even face - highlight and Moonlit Rose was a great mauvey-pink lid and crease shade.
Repurchase? No, but only because I have other similar colours in my stash.

Earth's Beauty Satin Rose Blush (sample)
Earth's Beauty was one of the first companies I tried when making the switch to natural makeup, but it's not one that's ever impressed me very much.  Satin Rose is a pretty pale pink, but the blushes have an arrowroot base that makes them sheer and slightly chalky.  They also only last a few hours on the cheeks.
Repurchase? No.

Darling Girl Cosmetics Hope Blush (sample)
Darling Girl's eye shadows have been favorites for years, but this was my first time using one of their blushes.  Hope was a beautiful bronzy-peach that gave the skin a very natural, luminous, sun-kissed look.  It looks like it's been discontinued, but if you're looking for something along the same lines, Ecco Bella's Bronzer in Hibiscus gives a very similar effect.
Repurchase? No longer available.

Total Products Used Up in April
Skincare: 2 (Lip Balms: 1)
Bodycare: 3

Haircare:  3
Makeup: 2
Skin/Body/Hair Samples: 5
Makeup Samples: 6

Total Products Used Up in 2015
Skincare: 13 (Lip Balms: 5)
Bodycare: 15

Haircare:  4
Makeup: 7
Skin/Body/Hair Samples: 29 

Makeup Samples: 8


*Press sample
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