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

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Natural Beauty Review: Nad’s Eyebrow Shaper

I like to try new beauty products whenever I’ve finished my current stock, and I’ve been trying to upgrade my products to be a little more earth or body friendly as I go.  Well, one luxury that I’ve let go since I’ve had a baby is getting my eyebrows waxed.  Even if DH takes my son for the afternoon or evening, it’s never easy to find a reliable salon where I can get my eyebrows waxed quickly, without waiting, and have them done right, and not pay an outrageous amount of money.  Because, really, even after paying $15 my eyebrows are going to need waxing in a few weeks again anyway.  So I’ve been doing them at home.

I’ve used a Sally Hansen at-home eyebrow waxing kit that came with a little tub of microwavable wax and a little plastic stirrer that has heat-sensitive ink that says “ready” when the wax isn’t too hot.  I’ve had it for years but I have to say after even three at-home waxes the jar of wax got goopy and solid.  It got to the point where I would have to microwave it for way longer than the recommended 90 seconds, then hit it with a hammer to break through the exterior and reach the melty inner sanctum.  Even when that happened, I had a small window of opportunity to scrape out the soft wax, get it on my eyebrows, and peel off the wax while it was still pliable, all while trying not to get the little wax strings in my eye or on hairs I would need.  (And there were several times I had bald spots in my eyebrows from goops going awry.)

Enter Nad’s.  It has been a long time since the infomercials of yesteryear telling the story of a mom who made a natural hair removal wax for her daughter in her kitchen.  In search of a new at-home eyebrow waxing product, the following box caught my eye (and so did its price tag):

For $7 at Walmart, I picked it up and gave it a shot.  So far, two at-home waxes in, I’m very pleased with the results.

Pros: No heating, no stirring, no waiting.  The applicator makes it easy to keep the wax contained.  Instant on.  Natural ingredients.  It is very easy to remove the hair with the included cotton strips (which are completely washable and reusable).  No heating means your skin is much less irritated, which also makes it easier to use more often for touch-ups.  Excess wax washes off quickly and easily with warm water.  No more pulling out hairs trying to get rid of excess wax!

Cons: Sometimes it’s awkward getting the right angle on the applicator to cover exactly the area you want.  You may have to practice a little bit to be able to get the look you want the first time.  The box recommends you clean the area to be waxed with the enclosed cleansing sheet but I get good results with my own facial wash (Neutrogena’s Naturals Facial Cleansing and Makeup Remover) and a clean towel.  I tried the wax on my chin and it worked well for the finer hairs but not for thick, stubbly ones.

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s effective, efficient, natural, and pleasing to use.  And at $7 a box, this is a bargain.

Walmart in-store was $7; Drugstore.com has it today for $5.59 (buy it now)

You need to read this magazine

My local library branch is small.  The building it’s in is basically a small modular ranch home; when you enter there is a small bedroom-sized space with all the book stacks, fiction and non-fiction.  The main part of the building is open, with four cushy chairs for seating in a circle, four computers for public use, magazine racks, and the circulation desk.  To the far left, with the highest ceiling and widest space, is the children’s section of the library, with a small desk with crayons on one side and a wooden alligator filled with board-books on the other.  What the library doesn’t have in books it makes up for in two important ways: one, the ability to have books from any other regional library delivered to this library when available; two, a great magazine selection.

Consumer Reports, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living… ah yes, this is what dreams are made of.   Issues available for the loaning for two weeks, all free and within five miles of my home.  It was on one of these days thumbing through Consumer Reports for phone reviews a few years ago when I noticed the magazine placed next to it.  Brain, Child was the name.  The tagline: The magazine for thinking mothers.  I gave a half-smile, thinking, “Oh good, there will be a magazine to keep my brain from turning to mush when I have kids.”  I was still blissfully ignorant of how difficult of a time I would have becoming a mother at the time, and I tucked away the knowledge of a magazine I had never heard of before into that place where I save trivia for a rainy day.

Last summer, several months pregnant, I happily checked out my first issue of Brain, Child for a 12-hour car ride.  And within minutes of opening the pages, I was crushed: this issue was going to be the last.  I thought It figures, the minute I get close to becoming a mother one thing I looked forward to is taken away.  I read the magazine sad with my knowledge.  I guess there isn’t a market for thinking mothers.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago.  Now that my son is no longer a ball of instinctual and evolutionary responses and is gasp! learning things daily, I am making more of an effort to give him purposeful activities.  This would include Saturday morning story hour at the library.  While waiting for other children to arrive, we wandered over to look at the magazines and lo and behold, Brain, Child was there on the shelf.  I thought they must have been saving the old issues for posterity.  But no, the date said “Summer 2013.”  Wait a minute, I thought.  Was this an episode of baby brain where I had completely missed the message?  I grabbed the oldest magazine there – Winter 2013 – and brought it home.

Turns out the magazine did end, but not long after someone had come along to purchase the magazine and keep it up and going.  The new owner/editor, Marcelle Soviero, was a reader who, like me, couldn’t let the deliciousness of the magazine slip away – and I am so grateful she took the leap to keep it alive.

You need to read this magazine, especially if you are an infertilite, but it’s not going to be easy for you.  Every poem, article, essay, and letter is written by a mother.  But every poem, article, essay, and letter is moving and impactful and considers different perspectives on what it means to be a mother, and what it means to have a family.  The Winter 2013 issue alone hears the voices of women who’ve had miscarriages, who are searching for egg donors, who are foster-cum-adoptive parents, who are infertile.  And I have cried at their stories, able to know exactly what they mean and so grateful they were brutally honest about their thoughts, emotions, experiences.  Brutally honest.  But underneath it all, every story is written by a “mother” in however way that means for her.  Unlike other pregnancy or parenting magazines which focus on what chic stroller you should buy or the latest in teething biscuits, this magazine gets to the root of discovering what it means to be a mother.  The decisions you make on behalf of your children and how you think through those; the emotions of reproductive endocrinologist waiting rooms and their travertine floors; understanding teenage neuroscience…  It’s all peacefully co-existing in the pages of one relatively-ad-free (there are a few) judgement-free magazine.

You won’t find this magazine easy to find.  There are no beautiful cover models.  The cover story of this issue is “Playing God? Do kids really need religion?” and beneath that, “Babies and BMI: How big is too big?”  Those headlines fall below the main water color painting on the issue of two red-brown owls with large magnetic black eyes.  But if you let yourself listen to these women and take the time to hear their stories, you’ll find that not only are you not alone but that there is hope for you too.

Go, now.  http://www.brainchildmag.com or @brainchildmag.

How Modern Family isn’t modern

I loved Modern Family during the first season.  It was hysterical.  TV critics said it had single-handedly saved the network sitcom, edged out by reality shows and cable television productions.  I watched it, I loved it, I rented the DVD and watched the season again.  As time has gone on I have watched it less, mostly because I don’t have time to make sure that I watch it, but also because it wasn’t as fresh after a while.  And now it is in competition with inspired shows like The New Normal, all of which have (hopefully) begun to change American’s understanding and acceptance of families that look very different from the homes of yesteryear.  Whatever that is.

But for all its breakthrough power, particularly with adoption and same-sex couples, there is a side to Modern Family that makes it seem stuck in the same pattern as the homes of yesteryear.  When I really thought about it, I don’t know why I had been so blind to it before.  Maybe because the stereotype is so commonly used in storylines that I didn’t think to question it.  I didn’t think it was so weird to see on tv.  In fact, I began to question myself and my own choices…. am I the weird one?

So what is it that pervades the lives in the Modern Family?  Divorce?  Same-sex couples?  Three generations happily living within the same school district?  Remarried older man and trophy wife?

Nope, nope, no, and nope.  It’s that each couple has a stay at home parent.  Both Claire and Gloria stay home, even though all the kids up to this point were school age (of course now Gloria has an infant).  And Cam, one half of the gay couple – and the one without a permanent career – stays home.  How is this modern?  Especially when the nation has gone through a recession that puts even more strain on families, even dual-income ones.

Maybe because I work – which means I work with parents who balance family and career daily – I don’t see this side of American life.  I didn’t go through college to start and then give up a career.  And over 60% of college students are women, and have been for the last decade or so.  So are they all dropping out of the workforce once they hit mommyhood?

Don’t get me wrong.  Given the choice, I’d much rather stay home with my little one.  But I do like working, and being useful, and using my brain.  If I were Claire Dunphy I would have hopped back in the workforce saddle the minute Luke went to pre-k.  I know people who have become stay-at-home moms and dads, but mostly because their wages were so low it wouldn’t have made sense for them to go back to work and pay for childcare.  And, most of those stay-at-home parents (both moms and dads that I know) each have some other job on the side, whether it be selling jewelry, an Etsy shop, or DJ business.  Other than Cam’s stints as a clown or drama substitute, I don’t see Gloria or Claire bringing in any kind of extra income for their broods.  So is it modern or realistic that that would be the case for any one of those suburban, middle class (one would argue upper middle class) families on that show?  I find it hard to believe, considering the cars they drive and the houses they live in.  Unless they’re up to their eyes and ears in debt.

I don’t mean to be a hater.  I thought the show was pretty quality stuff.  It just doesn’t represent my family or my choices.  It doesn’t show the heartache of going back to work and being separated from your little guy, entrusting him to the hands of strangers day in and day out.  Spending only a few hours a day with him – an hour in the morning, maybe two or three at night if you’re lucky, and you’re even more lucky if he’s awake for some of those hours.  Packing family time, home maintenance and chores, and errands like shopping into two-day weekends is just as exhausting as having to go to work every day.

But I should also be clear that I know I am fortunate to work as a choice, and not as a necessity.  And while I have moments where I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom, and I thoroughly enjoyed my three months home, I recognize my skill set as a mom.  My son is likely to be an only child.  We don’t live in a neighborhood with younger children.  His next oldest cousin is 5 years old.  I see a huge benefit in having him in day care because he is a wickedly social guy, and he gets to play with toys he doesn’t have at home, go on walks and play outside, and learn to be cared for by someone other than Mommy and Daddy.   I never felt I was missing “adult interaction” by being at home and not being at the office, but it is nice to have a place where I can solve problems, make connections, look at the wonderful students I work with and think, “How do I get my son to be just like them?”  My days home with my son are, to be super cheesy and cliche, chicken soup for my soul; my days at work are chicken soup for my brain.  Without both being cared for and nurtured, I wouldn’t feel like a whole person.  I am thankful I live in a modern enough world that I am able to satisfy both.

Natural Beauty Review – Josie Maran Argan Matchmaker Foundation vs. Almay Smart Shade Foundation

I can be a late-night tv infomercial sucker.  Friday Night Beauty on QVC always introduces me to new products I didn’t know I’d want or need – and let’s face it, there’s nothing else on tv on Friday nights anyway.  One Friday night I was drawn into the Josie Maran products, particularly watching a white product miraculously transform to perfect skin-tone matching shades, and for that foundation to also have lots of great properties for your skin while being natural, I was intrigued.  Intrigued enough to march straight to Sephora and get myself a sample to try for a few days.

Until that point I had been very happy with the medium and long-lasting coverage I got from my Estee Lauder Double Wear, but I wasn’t so thrilled with it being not-so-natural.  For one week I wore the Josie Maran Argan Oil Matchmaker Foundation on one side of my face and my regular Estee Lauder on the other.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t tell which makeup was on which side of my face.  And the Josie Maran side looked a little less shiny than the Estee Lauder side, which you wouldn’t expect from a foundation with “oil” in it’s name.

So for a few months I went along with the Josie Maran makeup.  What I really liked about having a “matchmaker” foundation was that it was a lifesaver during the early months of new motherhood, when I had a few precious moments to make myself look presentable (or at least look like myself) and not a lot of time to worry about blending in a lot of products.  But once I went back to work it was clear I was going to have to get a product with a little more durability and coverage. 

Josie Maran Argan Matchmaker Foundation Pros: Feels great on your face, like you’re not even wearing makeup.  A little goes a long way.  Makeup you don’t feel guilty about wearing. 
Cons: It does not have lasting power.  Often I’d wipe off the makeup around my nose within an hour if I had to blow my nose – which is the reddest part of my face and needs the most coverage.  No SPF.  The color tinting was a little bit more yellow/brown than my skin tone and often needed more blending around my neckline to look flawless.  You may have to get creative about using up what’s left in the jar because it’s a pump.  And I didn’t see any benefits from the foundation like anti-aging or flawless face perfecting.  But I also didn’t apply it with the foundation brush they recommend.

Hmm, bummer.  The late-night miracle product wasn’t perfect.  What to do?  Enter challenger Almay Smart Shade Foundation.  I had actually always wanted to try this foundation but I never thought the “smart sensing” technology would actually be able to get my skin tone right.  It seemed too good to be true.  But once my sister gave me her unused bottle, I had no excuse not to try it. 

At first I didn’t like it as much as the Josie Maran foundation because it was heavier, but that was due to its having SPF in it.  Once blended, it didn’t feel much heavier than other foundations and it didn’t leave my skin slick.  The shade was a little bit lighter and less yellow, which made it a more natural fit for my skin tone.  A little goes a long way as well, except the Almay doesn’t wipe off easily. 

Almay Smart Shade Foundation Pros: SPF 15 and more of a match for my fair skin (with redness but yellow undertones).  A slight more coverage than the Josie Maran foundation, but not as much as with a full-fledged department store foundation (such as my Estee Lauder Double Wear).  Drugstore prices and easily accessible.  No fragrances and formulated for sensitive skin.
Cons: Not as natural of a product but does limit toxins and other additives that are considered harmful.  I’m not sure how the heavier (initial) feeling of the foundation will react with hotter summer temperatures. 

My decision: Well, I’ll be using my Josie Maran until it’s empty but only on days when I don’t care what my makeup looks like (aka, when I’m not going to work).  Every other day I’ll be using the Almay.  I’ll probably buy the Almay again and use it again, though I still wish I could find something more natural but with the SPF and matchmaking/time-saving/no-mirror-required-to-apply benefits. 

My next beauty review in a few weeks – The Body Shop’s Aloe Soothing Day Cream vs Clinique’s (aka better beauty through chemistry) Redness Solutions Day Creme.

Book Review: The Hot Mom-To-Be Handbook, by Jessica Denay

The subtitle to this book is “Look and Feel Great from Bump to Baby.”  When I bought this book I was looking for some advice about the best way to go about this pregnancy thing, without losing myself, my sanity, or my life savings.  In the bookstore this seemed like a rational option and I happily took the book along with me on vacation to read on the beach.  I was looking forward to a guide to help me figure out just what the heck kind of equipment I would need, you know, what to register for.  And what “hot moms” get that make them hot.

So here I was on the beach, sans sunscreen, reading how to be a “hot mom.”  Turns out being a “hot mom” in Denay’s mind is either having the most fashionable stuff or making sure you continue to spend lots of money on yourself.  Either way you’re spending money.  This is essentially a handbook to things to buy, and unfortunately because of how quickly tastes change in our consumer-driven economy, sadly a lot of her advice, websites, or taste choices were out of date.  Such is the way of books, though, because they are static; and this concept for a book is probably best served in a blog or website that can be constantly updated and tweeted.  I haven’t actually checked to see if she has a blog but I have a feeling that’s how she got a book deal in the first place.

Every chapter has a different theme of “stuff,” and presumably each chapter coincides with the month of pregnancy that you’re in.  I really honestly only read up through “Daddy Gadget-itis” before I gave up on the book entirely, so I freely admit this review is based on a half-reading of it.  Granted, she at least breaks some of the items she suggest you buy or register for into different categories, like budget-friendly (which I still thought were more expensive than I liked), eco-minded, and splurge items.  I just found a lot of the advice and suggestions unnecessary or obvious, as in something I could have learned for free from BabyCenter.

The rest of her advice had to do with maintaining your friendships with your girlfriends and with your husband/partner.  I honestly thought it was going to give me advice on how to dress hot, how to do my hair in a pregnancy-friendly way, how to wear heels that don’t kill your back, how to exercise and be hot, etc.  But instead it all said the obvious…  communicate with your husband…  make girls nights with your friends…  rely on help from those who offer it to you.  I have to say, though, that Denay lost some credibility with me early in the book with this kind of advice, particularly in the relationship area.  Denay is divorced from her kids’ father, and for her relationship advice she talks about what she and her ex used to do when she was pregnant.  (I got the feeling they divorced soon after she gave birth).  Now, I don’t know why she got divorced and I don’t really care, but as someone who’s writing in an expert voice to young women you at least owe it to your audience to provide a disclaimer – such as, “This is what I wish I had done with my husband (and maybe my marriage would have been stronger)” or “Even though I’m divorced now, I had a loving relationship that mutually ended and we still provide a loving, nurturing environment for our children.”  I’m not saying I need the details.  But if I didn’t know what I was doing in the relationship/marriage department, I’d at least want to know that the person giving me advice wasn’t giving me bad or misguided advice.  Again, not that her advice was bad, per se – just not rocket science.  And I’m not easily impressionable, but I’m sure there are a lot of young women out there who are.

My final thoughts: Skip the book, buy yourself (or a friend) something nice instead.

You can buy the book at Amazon here.

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.