I will never abandon you again, The Body Shop’s Aloe Soothing Day Cream

Dear The Body Shop,

Thank you for inventing your little pot of Aloe Soothing Day Cream.  I strayed from using it when I became skeptical of its powers, but immediately regretted my decision.  Once I switched back to using your Aloe Soothing Day Cream, any damage that had been done to my skin by trying a drugstore brand – including hideous dry patches around my nose and cheeks – healed in days.  Days.  Within one week they were completely gone and you would never know my skin had been peeling horrendously from a bad decision.

Just a little dab erases any dryness or irritation on my sensitive skin.  When the redness on my cheeks flares up, your cream calms it down.  My skin is never greasy or oily.  A little bit goes a long way.  It is so light and absorbs so quickly, that it’s hard to believe it actually works.  It has never interfered with any makeup I’ve worn after applying it.  I don’t smell like an old perfume after putting it on, either.

The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic database scores The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Day Cream as a 1 on its level of toxicity and danger.  A 1.  As in, it’s basically water and aloe and you can’t get much more natural than that.  Making your product baby friendly, pregnancy friendly, TTC-friendly, fertility-friendly, earth-friendly.  Awesome.

Oh, and your products are made from fair trade farmers, which doesn’t exploit workers in third world countries.  Thanks for that, too.

Click for enlarged view

Your price, at $15, doesn’t break the bank and your stores typically have great deals so that it’s even less expensive.

If I ever cheat on you again, The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Day Cream, it will be because I will need a moisturizer with an SPF if my makeup doesn’t have any.  But fortunately, I see you have an Aloe Soothing Moisture Lotion SPF 15.  That’s very good news.

Thank you for this all around awesome product.  I will never need to search for a moisturizer again.

Sincerely,

Hope

No to Yes to Carrots Soothing Moisturizer

When I ran out of my last facial moisturizer, I decided to give a drugstore natural product a try.  Having sensitive skin with occasional redness, I looked for something that would help keep my skin calm and protected.  I read the labels for lots of different moisturizers and decided to try the Yes to Carrots Soothing Daily Calming Moisturizer.  It says its formulated for sensitive skin and, as it has natural ingredients, what could possibly cause a reaction?  Cucumbers, aloe vera, and almond oil… sounds good to me.

Except it wasn’t.  The first day I used it, I noticed an immediate burning sensation especially in the drier parts of my face on my cheeks and around my nose.  I brushed it off and thought that maybe I should let my skin get used to it, and vowed to try to use it for a few weeks before I criticized.  But day after day, the burning continued, followed by unusual red blotches all over my face that would eventually fade.  The blotches were in random places too, and not always in the same locations, and not always every day.  At the end of the night, after I would wash my face with my usual natural cleanser and makeup remover, my skin was tight and dry.  All of this was the opposite of “soothing,” “calming,” and “gentle.”

It’s been about a month and the symptoms have not gone away.  While they do fade within 10 minutes in the morning, my makeup has been caking in my drier parts of my skin and doesn’t blend as nicely.  It’s the end of the line for me and I’m finally giving up on it.

Yes to Carrots Soothing Daily Calming Moisturizer: retails for $14.99; EWG Skin Deep rating not available, but the regular daily moisturizer is rated a 5 (medium risk).

While it’s nice to have easy access to an over the counter moisturizer that’s natural, I’ve decided to return to the last moisturizer I used – The Body Shop’s Aloe Soothing Day Cream… arriving at my doorstep any day now.

Natural Beauty Review – Burt’s Bees Therapeutic Hand Creme vs Baby Bee Nourishing Lotion

It’s winter.  And I get really dry skin in the winter, especially on my hands, which I wash all the time.  And having had to go to the bathroom at least once an hour while pregnant at work really did a number on my skin.  I asked the hubby to pick up some natural hand cream for me at the store and he came home with the Burt’s Bees Thoroughly Therapeutic Hand Creme, honey and grapeseed oil.  In fact, when he walked in he smelled of perfume – actually, honey, which is the strongest scent it has – and I always get comments on the scent from others when I use the cream.  It’s a pretty good cream; it blends right in to your skin, a little goes a long way, and it doesn’t make your keyboard or anything else greasy after you’ve used it.  But its effects are temporary and I’d find myself reapplying frequently.  All in all, though, I liked it and recommended it to others.  My husband, whose knuckles started bleeding from the cold weather and dry air, used it even more than I did (followed up by Neutrogena lotion at night).

But then one night after giving our little one a bath, we put Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Nourishing Lotion all over his body to help with his dry skin and keep the little bugger moisturized.  And immediately after massaging our son, my husband and I looked at each other simultaneously with a wide-eyed look of eureka – “This is better than the hand creme!” I exclaimed.  “I’m going to use this from now on!” I said.  My husband concurred, just as enthusiastically.  So now when our hands get a little dry, we turn to the Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Nourishing Baby Lotion instead of the hand creme (although I am still using the hand creme from time to time, because it’s wasteful not to).  Keep in mind, the hubby also liked to ask me if I ever considered the plight of the bees used in making Burt’s products, so for him to willingly use the lotions says a lot about their quality.

The baby lotion feels a little heavier but it is greaseless, like the hand creme, and doesn’t have as much of an overpowering scent as the hand creme does.  And just like the hand creme, a little goes a long way.

The Thoroughly Therapeautic Hand Creme is regularly priced $9.99 on Drugstore.com, while the baby lotion sells for $7.99.

 

Natural Beauty Review: Burt’s Bees Shampoo, More Moisture

I have been trying different shampoos with different levels of chemicals for a while, all with the goal of balancing affordability and eliminating unnecessary chemical exposure.  I started with basic family size brands with lower sulfite compositions, such as Tresemme naturals and Fructis Pure.  These are easily accessible and though more expensive, they were still a reasonable price compared to salon brands.  But after lots of shower gifts from fellow moms that had different Burt’s Bees products – from belly butter (awesome!) to body wash to diaper cream – I thought to try out the shampoo and conditioner as soon as I had the chance. 

Having curly hair, I purchased the “more moisture” shampoo and conditioner.  The shampoo doesn’t foam very much so at first I wasn’t sure it was even working.  But that’s what happens when you take out the chemicals.  A little shampoo went a long way, it turns out, and when my bottle ran out last week I was really bummed at the difficult time I had finding the replacement!

First, the pros: A little goes a long way.  My hair felt more moisturized with the Burt’s Bees than with any other shampoo and conditioner I have used.  Despite it not having the same chemicals as your average drugstore brand, I felt I didn’t sacrifice anything switching to a natural brand.  My hair always felt clean and well cared for.  There isn’t much of a scent but what scent there is is mild and non-abrasive.

The cons: It took my scalp a few days to get used to the new products.  I think years of using drying chemicals daily did a number on my scalp’s need to replenish itself often, and it had to learn to take a break with the new shampoo.  Burt’s Bees in general is a little more expensive than other brands, though still much more affordable than salon brands.  But I can only find the shampoo at Target, which isn’t a convenient store for me.  I haven’t gotten to the point of ordering it online but that’s not a bad choice, if needed.  Now that I think of it, I haven’t checked my local grocery stores, but I know my Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite Aids don’t carry the shampoo (though they carry other Burt’s products).

Overall, I loved the shampoo and conditioner enough to buy other products and give them a shot – a new facial scrub (and you know how critical and picky I am about those!) and body lotion, for instance.  All of my experiences with those products have been above and beyond expectations.  All in all, those of you looking to eliminate chemicals from the hair care part of your routine – don’t wait and don’t waste your money on half-natural hybrids.  It is worth the effort to switch now to Burt’s Bees.

Natural Beauty Review: Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation

I am a sucker for freebies, an addiction gleefully enabled by Sephora.  I got a deluxe sample of the Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation what I believed to be moisturizer around the same time I purchased the Ole Henriksen scrub.  I began using both at the same time, and I just ran out of both at the same time, which goes to show that a little goes a long way for both of these products.  Knowing the scrub was already approved for pregnancy, and needing a new lightweight moisturizer, I plunged right in to the Ole Sheer Transformation sampler.

Now, the Sheer Transformation product claims to perform several tasks such as provide anti-aging protection, fade discoloration such as age marks and sun spots, retexturize your complexion, and smooth fine lines.  In truth I don’t really have many of these problems, but I do tend to have the following: persistent redness in cheeks and nose, red spots and acne scars, combination skin with oily forehead and dry cheeks, and crow’s feet.  And I like my moisturizers to be light so that makeup doesn’t cake or react with them, to help emphasize my “natural” makeup look.

In the moisturizer department this product hit all of my requirements.  It was super light, not greasy, absorbed easily into skin, and kept my skin evenly balanced.  And a little goes a long way.

Is it a moisturizer? Is it a treatment cream?

But when it comes to delivering on its other promises, I didn’t notice any changes in my skin.  My acne spots are still there, my cheeks and nose are still red every morning, and there hasn’t been a change in the amount of clogged pores / acne / bumps I still get on my cheeks.  As for fine lines and wrinkles, I really wasn’t paying attention to that aspect and I don’t concentrate the moisturizer on those areas (like crow’s feet) to even know.

The bottom line: I grade this product a B-.  I probably wouldn’t buy this exact product again, especially if I found another moisturizer in the brand that was just as light.  While I didn’t see any “transformative” benefits, one little jar lasts a very long time and offers all around moisture that isn’t greasy and doesn’t aggravate my skin.  I’d definitely consider using other products from the brand.

You can buy this product now at Sephora here for $45.

Saying “yes” to maternity dress

Let me start this post by giving you some context: I stand about 5’2” and although I’m petite, I have long legs for my height and a short torso.  Depending on the store, I wear a size 0 through 4, and finding sizes and clothes that fit has always been a battle for me.  Now, add to that a smaller than usual uterus and an obsession with Jillian Michaels and we have a recipe for hilarity brewing at Destination Maternity.

I was one of those people who really didn’t see the lure of running out and buying maternity clothes right away.  And until the end of my third month, I was still fitting into my normal pants and shirts, though they were getting a little tight.  I purchased two of those “belly bands” at Target and thought that would be enough.  But then as my stomach grew, my shirts started not fitting well and weren’t long enough to hide the fact I using a hair tie to keep the button closed.

Just buy your normal clothes but bigger, was some of the advice I got.  It sounds like a good, logical idea.  Here’s my issue with that philosophy though: your body is going to expand in unpredictable ways.  Issue 1:  I carried extremely low; only until a few weeks ago the entirety of my bump was exclusively below my belly button.  I own normal clothes in much larger sizes – I have work pants in a size 11 from my “big girl” days that are just so comfortable to wear on days when I don’t care.  Size 11, people.  I can’t button them.  And I’ve only gained 10 pounds – less than what I weighed when I bought those pants in the first place.  Had I bought larger “normal” pants when I first got concerned about clothes I would still be in the same place I am now – with nothing “normal” fitting.

Issue 2: Even if you are wearing “normal” shirts, you’ll need them to be much longer and roomier.  First, your stomach’s surface area will continue to increase inch by inch.  If your shirt is too tight around the waist, especially in early to mid pregnancy, people might just think you’re carrying a spare tire, not a baby.  Second, if you’re wearing a “belly band” or otherwise jerry-rigging your pants to stay up, you’ll want to cover the evidence.  (I don’t even zipper my pants anymore).

Issue 3: Even yoga pants can become uncomfortable, and dresses will only get you so far.  Anything that’s too tight around the belly might give you discomfort physically and gastrointestinally.  Elastic waistbands are the way to go.

Borrow your boyfriend’s/husband’s clothes.  Incredibly this advice is from pregnancy magazines.  Really?  I mean, really?  He’s one foot taller than me.  Do you really think that’s going to work out well?  (Our legs are almost the same length, actually…)  Isn’t wearing larger, roomier clothes and sweaters frumpy enough?

With all these issues in mind, I decided to try my luck at the Destination Maternity.  I walked in – about four months pregnant – wearing a summer dress and was greeted with, “Hi, how can we help you?” and a quizzical look.  “Are you looking for something in particular?” meaning, “Why are you here, exactly?”  I explained that I was pregnant, it was my first time shopping for maternity clothes, and I had no idea what to do.  She explained that I should look for clothing in my “normal size” and that all the cheap stuff was in the back.  I started rifling through racks and she started a fitting room for me.  Once I had collected an armful of clothing, she showed me the assortment of bellies to use to see what the clothes would look like.  She handed me the biggest belly they had – the “7 months more” belly.  Even though she knew I was 4 months along.  Seriously?  I took pictures of me in the clothes with the belly for future reference.  Later, another saleswoman said to another first-timer, “As they say, you’re not going to start any new fashion trends while you’re pregnant.”  Damn straight.  Bring on the sweatpants!

I haven’t gone bonanza making maternity clothes purchases.  I did buy two pairs of work pants, a few t-shirts, and a few long-sleeve lightweight shirts.  My normal clothes are hit-and-miss with fit, and it’s a daily chore to create an outfit that looks presentable in the morning.  It’s even harder to find weekend wear.  I found a website called “Borrow for Your Bump” which I will be using for a formal event I have to attend in November.  I’m tempted to look into purchasing maternity jeans next, but maybe I’ll see how much further I can stretch in what I’ve got.

Natural Beauty Review: Ole Henriksen Walnut Complexion Scrub

I had lots of clogged pores and uneven skin texture on my face for a while – and by “a while” I mean a few years.  I exfoliated with an old drugstore apricot scrub maybe once a week if I remembered, thinking that would solve the trick though it never did.  Then I sampled a facial treatment at a spa night at a local spa and the specialist told me I should be exfoliating at least twice a week while in the shower to let the steam help open out the pores. She then recommended that I purchase the $70 exfoliating scrub available in the gift shop. No thanks! But my skin did feel and look amazing…

I scoured my endless supply of scrub samples, the kind you get with your Sephora purchases, and used them all up, comparing them in both outcome and ingredients.  The ones I liked the most (Kate Somerville’s Exfoli-Kate) had a lot of chemical ingredients in them; a bummer since I was trying to avoid those if at all possible.  After I had exhausted my samples, I headed to Sephora – online and in store – to find a good option.  I tend to have sensitive skin and wanted samples of the scrubs so that I would know if I would have a bad reaction or not.

Online I identified a few brands and scrubs I was willing to buy, based on ingredients and user reviews: Korres, Ole Henriksen, and Boscia.  While standing in that particular corner of the Sephora store I was approached by a beauty specialist and told her exactly my problem: “I’m looking for a natural exfoliator or scrub.  I tend to have sensitive skin and redness so I do want to try them before I buy.”  She immediately picked up the Ole Henriksen Walnut Complexion Scrub and began rattling off reasons why she loves it.  “I love it, it smells great, it makes your skin so soft, you don’t need a lot of it, a little goes a long way…” and then she said, “And it’s safe to use during pregnancy.”

Little jar but big results

Not sure what vibe I was giving off that made her mention that particular factoid (clomid weight gain, perhaps?) but I did appreciate it nonetheless.  It also made me think, “So that means other products aren’t save to use during pregnancy?”  I guess I never had it spelled out for me before. Anyway, back to the story: I tried the sample – which lasted over two weeks for me – and then purchased the product online.  (I don’t buy products from the Sephora stores because of the heat lamp issue I previously mentioned).

I use it every three days and I would say I am moderately satisfied with it.  It has helped with clogged pores and it has lessened oil production.  I don’t get the same kind of glow on my skin as I had from other products (like Exfoli-Kate).  My skin is very soft – usually just on the same day that I exfoliate, and it doesn’t last much longer than that.  I don’t get dry patches from using it and I have had a huge decrease in the amount of clogged pores on my face.  The scrub can be a little rough on your skin so be gentle when you’re rubbing it around, but I can’t see how anyone would cut their face open using it as some of the Sephora reviews had said.  The smell is unique – nutty – and a little dab on your finger will take care of your entire face.  Overall – probably 4 out of 5 stars; it gets the job done for a decent price, but I would like more enzyme-action or more to be done with oil production (though that may not be realistic from a natural product).

Click here to purchase this product at Sephora, currently selling for $24.