Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques 2020 Advent Box (Unboxing All 12 Days!)

I was so excited to receive the new Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques 2020 Advent Box in the mail last week -- honestly, I think it was the most fun I’ve had opening a package in a good while!  I’m a Lauren Brooke affiliate, which means that I periodically receive products to share on Instagram, but I’m under no obligation to post about them here on the blog.  No one at Lauren Brooke HQ has any idea that I’m writing this blog post, but, as soon as I received the Advent Box, I knew I had to share it ASAP, and also that I didn’t want to be limited to just the constraints of an Instagram caption.  

Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques, if you aren’t already familiar with the brand, makes natural and cruelty-free products with food-grade, organic ingredients.  Everything is handcrafted in the USA, and the company aims for skincare and makeup that is not only non-toxic and free from harmful chemicals, but that also nourishes you through your skin.  


Fall Favourites (ft. Derma E, MetaPora, Sweet Leilani, Consonant + more!)

It’s been a while since my last favourites post here on the blog, so I’m pretty long overdue!  Today's batch is mostly skincare, but I think that’s pretty fitting for this year -- my focus has definitely been more consistently on skincare than makeup since staying home these last many months. Also, while I’m calling this Fall Favourites, most of these are things I’ve been loving since at least the summer...


#Wishlist Wednesday: Black-Owned Green Beauty

I’d intended for this post to go up shortly after my comparable one highlighting Indigenous-owned brands in July, but here we are, months later!  Better late than never, right?  I want to take this overdue time to shine my (small) spotlight on some of the amazing Black-owned products and brands in the green beauty sphere. This is in no way an exhaustive list, just some of the products that have caught my eye over the last several months (or even longer!)



Jacq’s Revitalizing Face Toner

This is a hydrating floral tea made with mint, hibiscus, chamomile, burdock root, rose, and more.  It also includes moisturizing ingredients like aloe and sweet almond, rosehip, and sea buckthorn oils, and works to restore optimal skin pH.  The ingredients are right up my alley and the beautiful pink colour is speaking to me too. 


Lip Bar Face Palettes

Lip Bar is, of course, best known for their lip products, but in these mask-wearing days, I’m more so drawn to the company's face palettes.  Each skin tone-coordinated quad includes a setting powder, blush, bronzer, and highlighter, and I can’t help thinking the shades would also pair together beautifully on the eyes.


Photo Credit

Omiaje Herbal Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner

I haven’t had the best luck co-washing with regular conditioners, but I’m curious to try a dedicated cleansing conditioner to see how that might change things.  The Herbal Co-Wash uses willow bark and witch hazel extracts for cleansing and also includes a host of nourishing and strengthening ingredients like marshmallow root, babassu oil, horsetail extract, and provitamin B5.  Omiaje’s styling products are super intriguing too!


Josephine Cosmetics Eye/Dazzle Liquid Metallic Eyeshadows

I had a hard time picking just one product from Josephine Cosmetics to feature, but nothing gets me as excited makeup-wise as a beautiful metallic/shimmery eye!  These highly pigmented liquid shadows promise just that with rich and sparkling colour and instant, long lasting glamour. Available in six glimmery shades that can also double as liners, they look just beautiful!


Alaffia Everyday Shea Shave Cream

Alaffia is a longtime favourite of mine for great performing and inexpensive hair and body products, but one that I’ve never tried is their Shave Cream.  My current brand of choice has become increasingly difficult to find, but this looks like a fantastic alternative with a similar lotiony formula.  The Shave Cream is available in three essential oil scents and unscented.


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Lovinah Copper Peptide & EGF Ampoule

From ingredients to packaging to price, Lovinah epitomizes luxury skincare to me. Beyond that, what really sparks my interest is how the company incorporates ingredients not often seen in green beauty lines, like the copper peptide and epidermal growth factor in this ampoule. I haven't used either one before, but both are known to be excellent ingredients for hydration and anti-aging.  Lovinah’s founder, Joy, also created Black & Luxe over the summer, a site that showcases other great black-owned beauty, skincare, and wellness products. 


Bask & Bloom Brahmi Root Hair Masque

I’d like to give my hair a little more attention before the cold weather sets in here, and this repairative hair mask looks like just the thing!  Alongside numerous moisturizing ingredients, it includes an ayurvedic herbal infusion of brahmi, burdock, marshmallow, yucca, slippery elm, and horsetail for added conditioning and to promote healthy growth.  


Unsun Hand Cream SPF 15

Our hands are exposed to everything, but they’re an area that’s often neglected when it comes to sun protection.  Sure, you could apply a regular body sunscreen, but since those often lack the elegance and feel of a good hand cream, it’s not something most of us do.  Which is why Unsun’s fast absorbing hand cream is so tempting to me!  The formula, which claims to be water resistant for 40 minutes, combines rich emollients, revitalizing and anti-aging botanicals, and mineral SPF.


Plain Jane Beauty Blush Refills

Plain Jane offers an extensive line of makeup, but what stood out to me most is that the pressed eye shadows and blushes are sold as refill pans with minimal packaging.  The blushes are calling my name, and I also love the look of the cream concealers/color correctors, which look like they might be housed in eco-friendly paper tubes.  The company also has clear swatches of almost everything and sells inexpensive samples to help with choosing colours online.


The Honey Pot Feminine Hygiene Products

Mainstream feminine hygiene/cleansing product marketing can be pretty troubling, so I always feel the need to include a disclaimer before talking about these kinds of products.  I don’t believe anyone needs feminine cleansing products because lady parts are inherently gross or dirty, but I think they’re great if you experience sensitivity with other products or if you just want a dedicated product for that area.  I like the cheekiness of the company’s name and their Sensitive Wash, made with apple cider vinegar, calendula, and colloidal silver, looks like something I would like.  The brand also makes wipes and menstrual and soothing products.


Soap Distillery Cocktail Inspired Bar Soaps

I don’t really drink, but the idea of soaps crafted to smell like cocktails is still really fun to me.  I also love the company’s attention to sustainability -- soap packaging is plastic-free and biodegradable, and the company forgoes palm oil and any essential oils like sandalwood or palo santo with questionable or unsustainable harvesting/production methods.  Note: some scents include fragrance oils, while others, like the Gin and Tonic bars pictured, are made using just essential oils.


Free + True Marigold Morning AM Creamy Gel Cleanser

I’ve heard a lot of positive buzz about Free + True, and the “creamy gel” description of this cleanser sounds like everything I look for in a face wash.  The formula is pH balanced and its stellar ingredients include hyaluronic acid, sunflower oil, calendula, papaya, and plantain extracts, and lots more.  Moonlight Milk, the company's nighttime balm-to-milk cleanser, looks just as tantalizing too!


Photo Credit

Inahsi Naturals Rock Your Curls Curl Enhancing Cream // Coconut Avocado Curl Defining Custard // Aloe Hibiscus Leave-In Conditioner & Detangler

Inahsi’s founder, who has a history in cosmetic and personal care manufacturing and formulation, created these products specifically for all types of curly hair, and honestly, I’m intrigued by most of the line!  The ingredients look amazing and I love that everything is available in inexpensive 2-oz mini sizes if you’re just looking to test the waters.


FrizeFrize Make Me Smile Hair Gel // CurlMix Flaxseed Gel // EcoSlay Orange Marmalade

I’m grouping these together because all three are all flax-based hair gels.  Gels are my usual go-to for wash day curl scrunching, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about flax-based formulas.  The EcoSlay is scented with sweet orange essential oil, and FrizeFrize and Curl Mix offer both scented and unscented options.


I’d love to know any of your favourites that I might have missed! Feel free to leave them in the comments here or come chat with me over on Instagram:)  




Summer Empties / Products I've Used Up

It’s that time again!  Keep reading for mini reviews and a look at all the products I’ve used up over the last 3+ months...

Curly Girl Reviews: (Mostly) Protein-Free Conditioners + Styling Products


It's been pretty well established that healthy hair needs the right balance of moisture and protein, and that messing with the equilibrium by overdoing either one can cause problems. That's why, after years of what seemed like excessive hair breakage, I decided to try a protein detox this spring/summer to determine once and for all if protein overload was the cause of my sometimes brittle hair. Essentially, I eliminated any hair products with protein -- it's harder than you might think with all the hydrolyzed grains and other protein sources that can hide in an ingredient list! -- to see if that would resolve my issue.

As it turns out, I wasn’t fully protein-free for as long as I originally thought, as one of these products does contain a small amount of protein, but I did still do a proper detox for close to four months.  My hair routine was already silicone-free, and that’s also true of these five items.  


#WishlistWednesday: Indigenous-Owned Green Beauty

I have very mixed feelings about Canada Day this year and won't be doing anything to celebrate, but, what with it being Wednesday, it does seem like the perfect time to feature some Indigenous-owned green beauty brands and products that have caught my eye recently.  These aren't all Canadian, but they are all self-identified Indigenous, Aboriginal, Native, and/or First Nations products.



Spring Empties / Products I've Used Up

I seem to be incapable of putting together an empties post these days until I've accumulated a ridiculous number of products, but there you have it!  My last empties post was only about three months ago, but I've been making a dedicated effort to finish off older products and anything close to empty, so things have piled up quickly!

Keep reading for mini reviews of all the products I've used up over the last few months...


#StayHome Skincare: Extras + Occasional Products

For the final part of my skincare lineup, I want to share the products that I use regularly, but not on an everyday basis. The particulars may change, but this category always includes some combination of masks, chemical exfoliants, and spot treatments. There's some overlap between the different products I've been using recently, but I try to keep everything balanced and in rotation, and choose what to use on a given day based on how my skin is feeling.

#StayHome Skincare: Night Routine

Picking up right where last week’s morning skincare post left off, today I want to talk about my current nighttime skincare routine.  I’m not against using the same products morning and night, but as things have shaken out, I only have one overlapping product at the moment.  As you’ll see, I haven’t been using a toner at night, and I’ve also been skipping eye products in general for the last little bit, though I’m sure I’ll add one back in soon enough.

Here’s a look at what I’m using on a nightly basis:


#StayHome Skincare: Morning Routine

It’s been a crazy couple of months everywhere, but despite the added stress of COVID-19 and everything that’s come along with it, my skin has been looking pretty darn great recently!  Aside from grocery runs every couple weeks, I’ve been isolating at home for almost six weeks now, and keeping to a pretty simple but consistent skincare routine that entire time. 

Here’s a look at what I’ve been using in the mornings. (If you keep up with me on Instagram, you will have likely seen most of these products already.) I'll be sharing my night routine and occasional/extra products next.


Top Shelf Deodorant: Current 2020 Favourites

My natural deodorant journey is a little different from most people's.  Aside from a single peach scented Secret exception in my teens (which I don't think I used more than a handful of times), I've used natural deodorant my entire life.  Today, choices are more than plentiful, so I’d never claim to have tried them all, but in 15+ years, you better believe that I’ve tried a fair few! It's been a few years since I've shared my favourites and, while I still stand by those picks, I'm long overdue for an update.  Some of the ones on that list are no longer available, and others I’ve moved away from in favour of formulas that better suit my preferences today.

These are my very top picks and happily, I think there are options to suit just about everyone: scented and unscented, baking soda and baking soda-free, and vegan and non-vegan.  Four of the six are from Canadian brands too, which always makes me happy.


I don't think I'm an overly smelly person, but I can build up some funk and I'm generally not willing to reapply my deodorant throughout the day either, so I need something that's both effective and long-lasting. All six of these have passed my 24-hour life wear test. 

Keep reading for all the details...

Mega Empties! Skincare, Makeup, Body + Hair

It’s hard to believe that my last empties post was almost two years ago!  Don't worry, I haven’t held on to my trash from that entire time, but I’ve got my empties from the last six months to a year.  I’m going to speed through these with very mini reviews, but feel free to ask questions if you're curious or want more details on anything.

Fair warning: it's going to be a long one!


{save} Skincare Anti-Pollution Sleeping Mask + Vit C Booster

{save} Skincare generously sent me a few products last month to try out and I've been thoroughly enjoying the Sleeping Mask and Vit C Booster from the company's new Anti-Pollution line ever since.  {save}'s products are intended as a “safe refuge in an overloaded skincare market” and promote a simplified and gentle routine made with healthy and safe ingredients. {save}’s homebase and production is in Poland, and all products meet the EU’s stricter ingredient guidelines.  The company also errs on the side of caution and forgoes any ingredients with controversial safety considerations, including parabens, SLS, phthalates, mineral oil, sulfates, GMO’s, silicones, and colours. {save} products are also cruelty free and made without essential oils or fragrance (both synthetic and natural).

Clean Beauty Awards: 2020 Finalists Announced + My Top Face Wash Picks

The Clean Beauty Awards are an annual celebration of some of the best and brightest in the green, clean, and natural beauty space.  The awards are hosted by CertClean here in Toronto, but products and judges come from all over the world. This was my third year on the judging panel, and I’m so excited to share a little more about the experience now that the 2020 finalists have been revealed.  

Over 370 products were entered for 2020, with the first round of judging taking place from August to December 2019.  With up to 50 products in some categories, it’s impossible for each judge to try them all, so we were each sent a “jury box” of products in one or more categories, and after every product is tested and scored by several independent judges, the ones with the highest average scores are carried through to Round 2 as finalists.

For Round 1, I judged Face Wash, the perfect category for me since cleansers are one of my very favourite products to try out.  Only one product from my jury box made it through as a finalist, but I still want to share my personal top three from those I tried.


Natural Acne Tool Kit: Skincare Favourites for Oily, Combination + Acne-Prone Skin

I’ve tested and reviewed a lot of products over the years, which I know can be overwhelming if you’re just searching for the best X or Y to suit your needs.  For that reason, one of the things I want to do this year is put together some resources of my favourite products across various categories.  That starts today with my favourite skincare products for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.  

I thought this was a good one to kick things off with since acne and breakouts are something that most of deal with at some point in our lives.  My story is pretty typical: I had some acne as a teenager, my skin cleared up in my twenties, and now, at almost 32, it’s something I’ve been dealing with more again over the last couple years. I've never had bad acne by any means, but I deal with breakouts around that time of the month, minor skin congestion, and my skin has a tendency to get oily and develop some shine throughout the day, particularly in the summer months.

My approach tends towards products that are both gentle and effective.  Harsher products have never worked for me -- in fact, more often than not, they've just caused more problems -- so my top picks are products that combine potent blemish fighters with skin-friendly formulas that encourage healing and healthy skin function.