5 Questions with Samantha Addonizio from Know Your Ingredients (+ a Giveaway!)

Know Your Ingredients - KYI for short - is a wonderful skincare line offering minimally processed and whole food skincare made from nutrient-rich ingredients like argan oil and shea butter.  I was first introduced to the line in 2013 (see my reviews here and here) and it's a brand that continues to impress me.  KYI's founder, Samantha Addonizio, is passionate about creating simple skincare that really works -- something that truly comes through in each of the company's three multi-functional products.  

I asked Sam to answer a few questions and give us a peek behind the brand today.  Plus, make sure you stay tuned till the end and enter our giveaway for a chance to try KYI for yourself!
1) Can you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to create Know Your Ingredients?
 I'm a working mom with two active, sports loving boys.  I take good care of myself and my family.  I go out of my way to make sure we eat healthy, whole food but delicious meals.  I make sure we all regularly get outdoors to enjoy nature, fresh air and exercise together.  In all aspects of our life, I make sure we make thoughtful decisions and informed choices.  As a woman who loves skin products, one day my husband asked, “Do you even know what’s in that stuff you slather on your skin all the time?”  I stopped in my tracks because it never occurred to me before to look!  And when I read the ingredient label I was surprised to find that I did not even know what more than half of the ingredients were.  I started to do research (the Environmental Working Group’s database is a great place to start).

I learned that many products labeled “natural” had emulsifiers to combine water-soluble ingredients with oil-soluble ingredients and also added a preservative to prevent bacteria growth.  And, I learned that all oil-soluble products do not need emulsifiers and preservatives.  So I developed my products from natural oils and butters.  I discovered along the way that my skin reacted much better to the oils and butters: it started looking and feeling healthier, softer and more elastic….old scars started to fade.  I shared my products with family and friends who experienced the same results. I wanted to share my revelation with others: that what you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it.  That is why I founded KYI.  
2) What sets KYI apart from other natural brands?
 Simplicity. Take a look at the ingredients on other products called “natural” and then look at KYI’s ingredient labels.  KYI’s ingredients are just oils and butters with or without added essential oils for their luscious scents!  We also happen to be vegan!
3) What has been the most challenging thing since starting KYI?  And the most rewarding?
 The most challenging thing has been getting KYI’s message out.  Even though it’s IN the name!  People do not seem to pay attention to the ingredients in the products that they use on their skin.  The most rewarding aspect is getting feedback from customers once they have used our products for a few months.  It is gratifying to have people agree that their skin has never looked or felt healthier!
4) Do you have any tips or tricks to offer someone just starting to transition to natural products?
 Yes, always test out a new product on a tiny patch of skin.  Even natural products can cause allergies.   KYI”s products are nut oils and butters and while emollient, nutritious and protective on the skin, they would not be for anyone with a tree nut allergy.  Also, sometimes certain essential oils can cause sensitivity in certain people.  ALWAYS test patch new products.
5) Outside KYI, do you have any favorite natural/nontoxic skincare or beauty essentials?
I only use KYI’s products for skin care.  I do wear mineral makeup and favor make-up companies that have the same philosophy as KYI, such as Au Natural Cosmetics.

Thanks Sam for taking the time to answer my questions!  

We've also teamed up to give three readers a chance to try KYI.  Each winner will win a KYI product in their choice of scent!  Open to US and Canada.  To enter, just leave a comment with the KYI product you'd most like to try + fill in the Rafflecopter widget (below) to record your entry.  As always, you can snag extra entries for following me or KYI on social media.

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All photos courtesy of KYI

Bargain Bests: Alba Botanica Fast Fix for Puffy Eyes + Undereye Circles

Green beauty can be an expensive realm to navigate, but it doesn't have to be.  Case in point: Alba Botanica's Fast Fix products.  Launched last year, these targeted treatments address common skin concerns and, depending where you buy them, cost less than $5 a piece.  I've tested two of the four Fixes -- the Fast Fix for Puffy Eyes and the Fast Fix for Undereye Circles and I really like both.

Fast Fix for Puffy Eyes
I spent a lot of years thinking my biggest eye concern was dark circles, but since finally discovering a concealer that works, I realize that puffiness can be even more insidious.  Color can be covered up, but puffiness is either there or it's not.  The Fast Fix for Puffy Eyes is marketed as an "eye-revive cooling gel," and I think that sums it up pretty well.  Made with aloe, hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, cucumber, caffeine, and menthol, the Fast Fix is a gentle unscented eye gel that feels slightly cool going on and visibly depuffs the eye area.  It doesn't completely eliminate puffiness -- and I'm not convinced anything topical could -- but I do notice a difference within a minute or two of application.  The product is very gentle and while I can feel a slight tightening effect, it's never uncomfortable or overwhelming.  The idea of menthol around the eyes gave me pause at first, but, again, the cooling effect is minimal and I've not experienced any discomfort.

For me, the Fast Fix hasn't replaced eye cream -- I still use a separate one most days with my skincare -- but it's become a regular step in my makeup routine.  I apply it immediately before doing my makeup and the gel sinks in almost instantly.  In addition to depuffing, it also delivers a light boost of hydration to the eye area, helping concealer apply easier and wear a little better throughout the day.

Fast Fix for Undereye Circles
I bought the Fast Fix for Undereye Circles last summer and I've had lots of time to play around with it this last year.  Alba describes the product as a vanishing concealer that simultaneously neutralizes darkness and brightens with apple fruit, white lily, and caffeine, and while I do like it, I'm not convinced it lives up to all those claims.

Personally, I've never noticed any skincare benefits or reduced dark circles from the Fast Fix.  I also consider it more of a color corrector or under eye brightener than a concealer.  It's thin, lightweight, and, quite frankly, doesn't have a lot of coverage.  A thin application sits really beautifully on the skin, but it's not a product that can be layered or built up very much before the cream starts to ball up on itself.

What it DOES do very well, however, is brighten up the under eye area, and the yellow color -- swatched in this post -- neutralizes some of the blue and purple found tones in dark circles.  Depending on your skin tone and how severe your dark circles are, the Fast Fix for Undereye Circles can be used by itself or underneath another concealer.

The Bottom Line

Super inexpensive eye products that actually work!  While I haven't noticed any long term corrective benefits from the Fast Fix for Undereye Circles, it's a nice lightweight yellow-toned corrector that works well both on its own and under a heavier duty concealer.  The Fast Fix for Puffy Eyes is a gentle eye gel that noticeably tightens and depuffs the skin around the eyes.

Have you tried any of Alba's Fast Fix products?  What are your favorite bargain green beauty finds?

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New from Holiskin: Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser + Cacao Seaweed Facial Mask

I was first introduced to Holiskin last year and, more than a year later, I still can't say enough good things about this brand!  With simple formulations, affordable prices, and a focus on sourcing the BEST quality organic and wild crafted ingredients, Holiskin is a line that really resonates with me.  

The company launched a few new products this spring and I've happily been trialing the Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser* and Holiskin's first mask creation, the Cacao Seaweed Facial Mask*, and, once again, I'm impressed!

Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser
Oil cleansers are my favorite way to remove makeup and the Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser is a real gem.  With a base of organic apricot kernel, camellia, meadowfoam, and castor seed oils, it's gentle and suitable for all skin types.  I prefer traditional oil cleansing (dry skin and a wet washcloth), but it also works well for dry oil cleansing, which I've seen talked about a lot recently.  

The key to good oil cleansing, for me, is to take a couple minutes to really massage the oil into the skin before taking it off, and the Sensitive Skin Cleanser has the perfect slip and viscosity for that.  It glides over the skin easily, but it's not so thin that it just runs off your face.  It removes every last trace of makeup and grime and leaves skin feeling soft and hydrated.  

I usually double cleanse with a second cleanser after any oil, but I wouldn't say it's an absolute necessity with this one, as it wipes away cleanly and doesn't leave a noticeable film behind on the skin.  The chamomile lavender scent -- heavy on the chamomile and light on the lavender -- is also beautiful, and perfect for winding down at the end of the day.  

Cacao Seaweed Facial Mask
With only three ingredients, this blend of organic raw cacao, organic wildcrafted seaweed powder, and kaolin clay is simplicity done just right.  Kaolin is a gentle white clay that detoxifies and purifies the skin, while raw cacao and seaweed are both packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that nourish the skin and fight against free radicals and other environmental stresses.

Holiskin suggests mixing the mask with honey or coconut milk, but I'll admit, I haven't actually tried it with either of those.  Instead, I've mixed it with plain water and hydrosols.  Both worked great, and I'm sure honey and coconut milk would too.

Because kaolin is such a gentle clay, I don't find the Cacao Seaweed Mask to be supremely detoxifying, but it definitely pulls some junk out of your pores and I can visibly see that they look cleaner after using it.  This would be a great option for sensitive skin or anyone that finds most clay masks overly stripping or drying.  

A final thing to note is that the seaweed smell is quite pronounced, even when mixed with hydrosols and essential oils.  I love what seaweed can do for your skin, but it's admittedly not my favorite smell in the world.

The Bottom Line
Two great new additions to Holiskin's line!  The Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser is an all around winner and the Cacao Seaweed Facial Mask is great too, as long as you aren't overly sensitive to the smell of seaweed.  

I also spotted a great deal on Holiskin's Instagram just as I was putting the final touches on this post -- $15 off any purchase of $20+ on the main Holiskin site with the code SPECIAL15.  Good for 3 days only.  I'm not seeing the Sensitive Cleanser on there, but I'm sure Holiskin can hook you up if you get in touch!  

*Press sample

Sola Skincare Brand Feature, Review + Giveaway

Sola Skincare is a family-run Canadian skin and body care company, inspired by the idea that what you put on your skin, you put IN your body.  Everything is handmade in small batches in Vancouver, B.C. using pure, natural, and food grade ingredients, and is free of preservatives, synthetics and fillers.

In a booming green beauty market, what most sets Sola Skincare apart, to me, is that their products incorporate not only Western plants and herbs, but also less common traditional Chinese herbs and ingredients.  One of Sola's founders is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and that extensive knowledge base is evident in a lot of the company's formulations.  

I've been trying out two of Sola's products over the last couple months and I'm eager to share my thoughts on them.  Also, make sure you read to the end to enter to win some Sola Skincare goodies for yourself!

Balancing Face Oil
Sola's Balancing Face Oil* blends together healing plant oils and Chinese herbs to balance and nourish the skin.  Argan, tamanu, camelina, sweet almond, jojoba, and meadowfoam seed oils serve as a hydrating and healing base for zhen zhu mu (mother of pearl), dang gui (Chinese angelica root), zhi mu (anemarrhena root), sheng di huang (Chinese foxglove root), and ru xiang (frankincense resin) -- ingredients known in Chinese medicine to improve micro-circulation, clear heat and inflammation, and provide important vitamins and nutrients to the skin.  The blend also includes antioxidant vitamin E and soothing and regenerative carrot seed, lavender, and sandalwood essential oils.  The oil absorbs well and sinks in pretty quickly, making it great for both morning and night use.

To my nose, the herbs are definitely noticeable and the oil is a little pungent.  If you've used Chinese herbs before, or even just walked into a Chinese medicine or herb shop, the oil smells, to me, like a concentrated version of that.  It's earthy, herbal, and just a little bitter.  Not necessarily my favorite scent in the world, but it doesn't linger beyond the first couple minutes, and the performance of the oil is definitely worth getting used to the scent.  

My cheeks are prone to clogged pores and congestion - something I've talked about many times before - and I saw a noticeable difference in that area right from the first use.  I applied the oil before bed and woke up with cleaner-looking, less noticeable pores on my cheeks, and all over glowing skin.  An oil, obviously, can't actually change your pore size, but this blend keeps them least looking tighter and more refined.  Over time, I've also noticed my skin becoming more even in tone, and started seeing less redness after several weeks of using the Balancing Oil too!  

I've tried a lot of oils in these last five years blogging and the Balancing Face Oil would rank right up there in my top 5.

Lavender & Adzuki Cleansing Grains
The Lavender & Adzuki Cleansing Grains* are also a solid product, though they didn't quite incite the immediate swooning reaction of the oil.  Made with only oats, adzuki beans, and lavender, the Cleansing Grains offer gentle cleansing and exfoliation without being harsh or overly abrasive, or effecting the moisture balance of the skin.  

Dry, the grains have a delicate lavender scent, but once moistened, I more so notice the earthiness of the adzuki beans coming through.  The grains work well on their own, just mixed with a little water, and I also like mixing them into another cleanser for an added boost.  Either way, my skin is left feeling calm, clean, and super soft!  


I've teamed up with Sola Skincare to give one of you a Sola Sampler Set!  The set includes mini sizes of almost all of Sola's products -- the Balancing Face Oil and Lavender & Adzuki Cleansing Grains that I tried, as well as Sola's Rose Hydrosol, Calendula & Rose Cleansing Grains, Coconut Deodorant, Bare Bum Balm, and Soft Skin Balm

Photo Credit
Giveaway is open to the US and Canada.  Follow the Rafflecopter widget (below) to enter!

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*Press sample

April + May Empties // Products I've Used Up

My empties bag filled up SUPER quickly this time, not because I finished a ton more products than usual, but because most of what I did finish are larger items.  Generally my empties include a lot of smaller, sample size products, so it's pretty satisfying to see so many full sizes here!

Andalou Naturals Argan & Sweet Orange Shampoo + Conditioner   [Review]
I was a little mixed on these -- especially the conditioner -- when I first reviewed them, but by the end of the bottles, I was sold on both.  The conditioner didn't last as long as other brands, but once I got used to using more product, it was a great fit for my hair.  Repurchase? Yes! I ordered replacements earlier this week.

Alaffia Everyday Shea Vanilla Mint Body Wash
The Alaffia body washes are both massive and very inexpensive, making them a great bang for your buck.  This bottle lasted me a full six months or more and it worked great.  Easy to lather, gentle on the skin, and smelled nice too -- though it had much more of a minty-herbal scent than vanilla mint.  Repurchase? Yes.

Deep Steep Tangerine Melon Body Wash
I like Deep Steep's Tangerine Melon scent in other products, but I didn't love it so much as a body wash.  Plus, the wash itself had a strange, jelly-like texture.  I'm wondering if something was off with this particular bottle, as I've never seen anyone else mention this consistency.  It did make a TON of bubbles though.  Repurchase? Probably not.

Niora Naturals Silk Basic Emollient Makeup Remover*   [Review]
I tried out the entire acne range from Niora Naturals this past winter, and this makeup remover was my very favorite product from the line.  As the name suggests, it has an emollient, lotiony texture, but melts away makeup just as effectively as an oil.  And, the emulsified consistency means that it rinses away much cleaner and easier, giving you the best of both worlds. Repurchase? Definitely!

Devita Fragrance Free Shea Butter BrulĂ©e   [Review]
I liked this lotion, but I wish it offered a little more intense hydration.  For a product described as "ultra rich" and "saturated with 100% shea butter," it was surprisingly light.  On the plus side, it's enriched with peptides and vitamin K, which you don't often see in body products, and does make skin look lovely and slightly perfected or airbrushed.  For that reason, I liked using it on my legs when they were going to be exposed, but it didn't keep my skin feeling moisturized for very long.  Repurchase? Probably not.

Acure Organics Tropical Citrus Argan Oil Castile Soap
I hate that I keep coming down on Acure products lately, but the castile soap was another disappointment for me.  The Tropical Citrus smelled great at first, but the scent completely disappeared within a month or two of being open.  The consistency was also very watery -- a lot thinner than other castile soaps -- so while it was cheaper than something like Dr. Bronner's, it seemed less concentrated.  Repurchase? Doubtful.  I can't find it online anymore to link even, so it looks like it may have been discontinued.

Deep Steep Peppermint Vanilla Argan Oil Foaming Hand Wash
Deep Steep's Foaming Hand Washes are awesome.  They're gentle and non-stripping, smell great, and the bottles last a surprisingly long time too.  Peppermint Vanilla was a seasonal scent and not as vanilla-y as I would have liked, but overall, it was a great soap.  Repurchase? Yes!

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Face Sunscreen in Fair + Light (samples)
I've been really into BB/CC creams and tinted moisturizers the last couple months and Suntegrity is one of the best.  Well worth the hype in my opinion.  My only problem with it is that it contains dimethicone, something I usually avoid.  Funny story, but before trying these samples, it had been so long since I'd used anything with silicones, that I'd forgotten just how good they are at smoothing out any texture issues and was blown away with how flawless my skin looked wearing just the Suntegrity and a light dusting of powder.  The 5 in 1 doesn't offer a ton of coverage, but, in addition to fixing texture issues, it also does a good job evening out skin tone and covering minor imperfections and blemishes.  It's also quite moisturizing, and leaves skin looking luminous and dewy.   In terms of colors, Light was too dark for me -- and definitely a little on the orange side -- but Fair was a great match.  Repurchase? Not sure.

Boo Bamboo Bamboo Makeup Remover Wipes   [Review]
I've talked about these before and they're still my favorite makeup wipes.  Gentle and effective, and they don't irritate my skin.  Repurchase? Yes.

Baby Spa Ultra-Soft Baby Wipes
I used these as a face wipe too and they were okay.  The actual fabric of the wipe felt a little rough.  This smaller 10-pack would be great for travel, but beyond that, I don't see myself buying them again.  Repurchase? Probably not.

Young Living Eucalyptus Radiata Essential Oil
I don't see eucalyptus in a lot of skincare, but my face really likes it.  I use it all the time in DIY toners and masks, and also as a spot treatment on blemishes.  Eucalyptus is, of course, great for any respiratory issues too.  Repurchase? Yes, I already have.

Femme Fatale Cosmetics Heroic Eye Shadow (sample)
I'm still (slowly) chugging away at shrinking my loose eye shadow stash and this sample was the latest to bite the dust.  Heroic, now discontinued, was a pretty gold, though nothing super unique or mind blowing.  Femme Fatale shadows always have great color payoff though and are, as a whole, a formula I'd recommend.  Repurchase? No.  

Rocky Mountain Soap Lemon Lime Lip Butter
I love Rocky Mountain Soap and the lip butters are one of my favorite lip balms.  Lemon Lime was a great fresh and zesty citrus scent, just what the name would suggest.  Repurchase? Yes.

Lily Lolo Black Mascara   [Review]
I love how this mascara performs, but it's a little frustrating how quickly it dries up.  I'm good about tossing my mascaras around the 3 or 4 month mark, but Lily Lolo's always dries up on me long before then -- usually after about 2 or 2 1/2 months.  I've also had good luck with other mascaras recently, so I'm not feeling especially loyal to any one brand just now.  Repurchase? Maybe.

See anything familiar?  What products have you used up recently?

*Press sample
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