A Year of Empties {Part #1: Hair Care}

I haven’t shared any empties since February of last year, so, needless to say, I’ve accumulated quite a pileup!  In the interest of finally clearing that out, I’m dedicating the rest of this week to empties posts.  Today will be hair care, followed by skincare, body care, and makeup.  Out of necessity, individual reviews will be brief, but I’m happy to expand on anything in the comments if you’d like more information.  

I haven't been particular to anything specific for shampoo or conditioner, so I've basically just rotated through several of the more inexpensive options on iHerb.  I’ve gone through multiples of the Broo Malted Mint Invigorating Shampoo and Conditioner before and it’s a good, non-drying duo.  You can definitely smell the beer in the formula, alongside the mint, but it’s not overly strong or offensive.  The Desert Essence Italian Lemon Revitalizing Conditioner smells nice and is nicely moisturizing while still feeling quite lightweight.  Its matching shampoo, the Italian Lemon Revitalizing Shampoo is great as an occasional clarifying shampoo, but I found it a little too harsh for use every wash.  The Andalou Naturals Argan & Sweet Orange Shampoo + Conditioner (now the Moisture Rich Argan Oil & Shea) has been a favorite of mine for a couple years, but it’s been reformulated and, since I stocked up before the change, I haven't tried the new one yet.  I also used samples of the Stop the Water While Using Me! Rosemary Grapefruit Shampoo + Conditioner, which didn’t make a huge impression after one use, and the John Masters Organics Spearmint & Meadowsweet Scalp Stimulating Shampoo, which I’ve used before and like quite a lot.  I believe John Masters has also reformulated many of their products and I’m unsure if this particular item has changed.  

I’ve used countless bottles of the Kinky-Curly Spiral Spritz Styling Serum and while it's a great weightless product, I’ve started to prefer something with a little more hold.  The Original Sprout Natural Hair Gel, for babies and up, does the trick nicely with a medium hold, light scent, and similarly affordable price point.  I went through two tubes and I have another on the go now.  The Wildcraft Cell Regenerating Face Serum hasn’t been miscategorized -- I just really enjoyed using it as a hair oil.  A few drops after styling does a fantastic job moisturizing my ends, adding shine, and taming frizz.  It a nice face oil too, but the real standout for me was in my hair.  

I started and ended the year with Rainbow Research Burgundy Henna and it’s what I’m still using.  The color, a dark burgundy, covers my greys, last well, and fades naturally.  It’s also pretty accessible and easy to get my hands on. I also enjoyed the Henna Color Lab Wine Red Henna, but it’s definitely a more high maintenance color to maintain.  It’s a beautiful brighter red, and also works well at covering greys, but it bleeds red for weeks and fades much more quickly and noticeably than the Rainbow Research.  I’ve said before that I only dye my hair because I have noticeable greys and it’s not a process I enjoy by any means, so I’m always going to go with the less work, lower maintenance option.   For both of these, I'm able to get at least one full head and one root touchup out of a single container/package.  

That's it for hair! Stay tuned for lots more empties over the next few days...

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Life-Flo Skincare Mists: NaPCA + Thermal Spring Water

For me, winter skincare is all about building and layering moisture.  From a non-drying cleanser to a moisturizing toner, hydrating serum, moisturizer, and/or oil, they all do their part in keeping skin happy and healthy through the cold months. Today I want to focus on two mists from Life-Flo.  Life-Flo is a wellness brand with an extensive array of products, including skin, body, and hair care.  I’ve been trialing the Thermal Spring Water Spray and NaPCA Mist over the last couple months and I’m excited to share my thoughts...

NaPCA Mist
NaPCA, also known as sodium PCA or sodium pyroglutamic acid, is a water soluble potassium salt that acts as a humectant.  Like glycerin or hyaluronic acid, it attracts moisture and can hold onto several times its weight in water, helping to prevent moisture loss in the skin.  It’s something that our skin naturally contains and is an important component of the skin’s protective acid mantle, but since levels deplete as we age, it’s a good hydrating ingredient to seek out in skincare products.

In addition to sodium PCA, the Life-Flo NaPCA Mist contains aloe vera, glycerin, and cucumber extract, making it a great lightweight and hydrating boost for the skin.  It’s unscented and very gentle, and I definitely notice hydrating benefits.  I mainly use the mist as the toner step in my routine, spraying it onto my hands and gently pressing into my skin. The mister is not as fine as I would like it to be for use over makeup or as a skin refresher throughout the day, but if you transferred the product to a better bottle, it would likely work great for that as well.  

I bought the mist mainly for my face, but since it's marketed for "face, body, and hair,” you know I had to try it for those too!  I like it on the body, particularly under a weightier oil or cream, as, just like on the face, it quickly adds a light watery layer of moisture that the next product can seal in.  For hair, it does a good job moistening and refreshing curls, and I appreciate that it doesn’t add any oil or greasy feel, but I also found it has a tendency to make hair more prone to tangling, so it's not a product I reach for much for my hair.  

Thermal Spring Water Spray
Thermal water is basically water that originates from underground hot springs.  It starts out deep underground and is heated by geothermal activity as it passes through the Earth’s crust and various layers of earth to reach the surface.  Along the way, it absorbs dissolved minerals and, because it generally hasn't been exposed to surface elements, is purported to contain less bacteria and pollution than ordinary water.  Thermal water is a big trend with a lot of French skincare brands and I came upon the Life-Flo version when looking for a cruelty-free option.  Unlike the others which are packaged in aerosol cans, the Life-Flo comes in a more traditional spray bottle.  Again, the mist isn’t super fine, but it does the trick.  Life-Flo's thermal water is extracted from the Zechstein salt layers in Europe, at a depth of 1600 meters, and contains, among other minerals, magnesium and calcium.

I like to keep a spray bottle of plain water around to help face oils and serums spread and absorb, and I feel like the Thermal Spring Water just takes that one step further.  I haven't noticed a big tangible difference in my skin, but it feels nice and cooling and seems to leave skin a little softer than ordinary water. I'm not sure it's something I'll continue to buy, but I admit, I do like the idea of using something with potentially more skin benefits than plain water.

The Bottom Line
Life-Flo's Thermal Spring Water Spray and NaPCA Mist are two good and inexpensive skincare mists.  The NaPCA Mist is a fantastic hydrating spray, perfect for layering extra moisture, particularly for dry or winter-weary skin.  It's a little harder to pinpoint the effects of the Thermal Spring Water Spray, but if you’re looking for a cruelty-free thermal water, it’s a great option to consider.  

Have you tried anything from Life-Flo?
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Mid-Winter Favorites (ft. Apoterra Skincare, POLYN, Mabrook & Co., Brija Cosmetics + More!)

Winter’s more than half over, so I wanted to share some of the products I’ve been loving the last few months, ever since the weather turned colder.  If you keep up with me on Instagram, some of these may look familiar...

Apoterra Skincare Neroli Clarifying Toner
Part of Apoterra’s Clarifying line for oily/acne-prone skin, the Neroli Toner is made with vitamin C, green tea, niacinamide, and willow bark extract, housed in a base of aloe vera and neroli, helichrysum, rock rose, and thyme hydrosols.  It’s a beautiful product and one I’ve fallen back in love with over the last few weeks.  The toner smells fantastic -- mostly like neroli -- and is gently clarifying.  It’s hydrating as well, with ingredients that target redness and inflammation, increase cell turnover, and boost overall skin luminosity.  It leaves my skin looking healthy and glowy and, in combination with the next product, has made my face super smooth and even, with virtually no skin texture issues remaining.  The toner also helps regulate oil production and I feel less need to blot throughout the day since reincorporating this product into my routine.  

Consonant Skincare Maximum Glycolic Meta Serum
I reviewed Consonant’s Natural Skin Renewal Kit at the beginning of January, and while I liked all three products in the kit, the Maximum Glycolic Meta Serum has become my hands-down favorite.   I gradually built up to using the serum every night and my skin looks fantastic -- which, like I said, I fully credit to a combination of this product and the Apoterra toner.  Acid products can often feel harsh or drying, but the Meta Serum is truly non-irritating, despite being formulated with a full 10% glycolic acid.  In fact, made with sodium PCA, niacinamide, and soothing botanicals, it even functions as a light hydrating serum too!  I’m still working on the mini from the kit, but I’m fairly certain I’ll be buying the full size as soon as it runs out.  

Mabrook & Co. Sensitive Deodorant
I go back and forth on the whole baking soda/no baking soda thing, but wherever you stand on the issue, Mabrook & Co.’s new Sensitive Deodorant is one worth trying.  The formula is unscented and baking soda free, but still ultra effective.  It relies on a combination of magnesium and kaolin clay for odor protection, and also includes shea butter to soothe and calm sensitive skin.  As well as being a good deodorant, the formula has also cleared up a lot of the shaving-related irritation I tend to get in my pits.  I used an entire mini stick already and was quick to replace it with a full size tube.

Duckish Lotion Sticks
Winter dry skin is the worst!  When I started seeing flakes of skin on the inside of my black pants at the end of the day (sidebar: eww!), I knew I needed to get a lot more diligent with my moisturizing.  Enter Duckish’s Lotion Sticks, which I’ve raved about many times before.  The sticks are solid in the tube, but they glide on like butter and melt into the skin beautifully.  A mix of grapeseed, coconut, olive, almond, and jojoba oils deeply moisturize, while beeswax and shea butter create a protective barrier to seal that moisture in.  The result?  Happy skin and no more yucky shedding.

Brija Cosmetics You Know Who Face Highlight
You Know Who, part of Brija’s Harry Potter collection, is another rediscovered favorite: a beautiful pale cream highlight with gold, silver and blue iridescence.  It’s perfect for fair skin and works as both a subtle glow and an in-your-face highlight, depending on how heavily you apply it.  I love using it for a targeted glow, especially with the more matte foundations I’ve been favoring over the last few months.

POLYN Purifying Face Mask
Although it’s called a mask, the Purifying Face Mask is really a dual product that can be used as a powdered cleanser/scrub and either rinsed off or left on to dry as a mask.  Mixed with just water, it offers pretty intense exfoliation.  I like to use the product this way about once a week, carefully exfoliating and then leaving it on for 5-10 minutes as a mask.  A mix of, among other things, bentonite clay, rice flour, adzuki beans, rosehip, and green tea do a fantastic job sloughing off dead skin, leaving everything smooth and soft to the touch.  The clay, when left on as a mask, also sucks up excess dirt and oil.  When not using it as a mask, I also like mixing a small amount of the powder into a creamy cleanser for a more gentle scrub.  

Homemade Bar Soap
I attended a cold process soap making workshop at The Cure Apothecary in December and came home with a loaf of soap to cure, use, and share.  The scent, which started out as bergamot and spearmint, didn't last very well through the curing process, but it's still a lovely, if mostly unscented, soap -- mild and non-drying with a good creamy lather.  Further soap experiments probably won't happen any time soon, but I had a lot of fun making these and it's a craft I definitely want to explore more at some point in the future.

What products have you been loving this winter?

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