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.




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)

Update to Natural Beauty Review: Almay’s Smart Shade Foundation

I’m getting to the bottom of the Almay Smart Shade Foundation.  I probably have about 1/4 of the container left, and, unfortunately, the color beads are getting a little funky.

ALMAY Smart Shade  Makeup

Now the little blue beads which contain the brown color mixing are kind of taking over the foundation, so that I look either really tanned or bronzed whenever I wear it.  I don’t know if you’re supposed to shake up the container every time you use it – that’s what I’ve been doing lately to try to even out the color – but I try to wipe away the dark blue dots that I know will bronze my face with a tissue before I put it on.  At least it’s summertime and a darker complexion doesn’t look too suspicious… but there were a few days my face was more bronze than my neck.  This is not leaving me with a great impression of the product, and I’ve been switching back to the remainders of my Josie Maran Argan Oil makeup, at least until I figure out something else to try.  Anyone have any suggestions for a natural, shade-adjusting, spf foundation?  🙂

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.

The silver infertility Nutribullet

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week 2013.  I couldn’t sleep over the weekend and ended up flipping channels, finally landing on an infomercial for the Nutribullet.  I stopped because I was intrigued by the similarities between the Nutribullet and the Magic Bullet; both have identical designs and systems, and I already own a Magic Bullet.  I use it to make smoothies all the time.  What makes the Nutribullet’s smoothies all that much better than the Magic Bullet?

Fortunately, Nutribullet had the answer to my questions.  Through a high-powered motor, the Nutribullet shreds everything in it’s path down to the cellular level so that it’s easier for your gut to digest, thereby allowing you to absorb more nutrients and solving many of your health worries.  Apparently the Nutribullet is designed for nothing else but making green smoothies that include every vegetable and fruit in the produce aisle but still taste delicious and always look green.  Both dubious claims.  I get that we have teeth so we can chew to better digest our foods, so why not let a machine do the chewing for you and drink your vitamins?

A few minutes in to my viewing, the commercial listed all the ailments Nutriblasts (their name for their smoothies) cure: fibromyalgia, acid reflux, aging, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and oh yeah, infertility.  What?!  It popped up once during the time I watched the commercial, and none of their testimonials included someone who miraculously had a baby after drinking a Nutriblast.  And the whole experience angered me, to use a topic as personal as infertility as an emotional plea for you to buy a product but then never show me any evidence.  Not even a short testimonial.  And all of us who have struggled to have children know that it’s not as easy as drinking a mug full of green slush.  I wish.

At the heart of the Nutribullet’s purpose is getting people to eat/drink more vegetables.  I’m all for that.  A healthy diet is just one way that we can all work toward better health.  And of course, filling your belly with whole fruits and vegetables is going to help you reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, lose weight, improve your vitality.  Nutrition for infertility, however, is a little more involved than throwing carrots into a blender. 

I once went to a “Nutrition for Fertility” workshop and spent two hours eating wheatgrass and hemp pesto on gluten-free crackers and learning the foods with yin and yang to balance out whatever my qi had going on with it that made me infertile.  Books that tell you to throw wheatgerm into your cereal every morning, or drink green tea.  And don’t forget to go organic so you don’t have to worry about the pesticides.  Suddenly shredding your meals down to the cellular level doesn’t sound so far-fetched anymore.

I understand the person who has tried everything with no end result, looking for just the right thing to do the trick.  I know that frustration and that pain.  That desperation led me to set a timer to wake up at the same time every day, take my temperature, give up coffee, stay off soy, mess with my hormones with high doses of clomid…  Was it only a matter of time before I tried the Nutribullet, or at least tried making veggie smoothies in my own blender?  Looking back on it now, I’m more insulted by the makers of Nutribullet that they would banter infertility about like a disease to be cured.  There are some lucky people for whom infertility can be “cured,” through surgeries, hormones, lifestyle changes, procedures, ARTs.  There are some lucky people, like me, whose infertility was struck down by luck once in a blue moon.  But even from one infertilite to the next, the solutions, if there are any, are hard to come by and even more unique.  So go ahead and try the Nutribullet – I really don’t see the harm if it fits into your fertility plan – but don’t put all of your eggs into that basket.

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.