Balms Away!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

If your skin is feeling parched and dehydrated, you will find relief by using a balm. How do you know which ones are best?  Let’s take a look at the 5 best natural skin care balms to alleviate your dry skin.

Why I like it: I initially bought this three years ago for my then 9 year old after he had stitches.  His skin was extra sensitive, dry, and even beginning to peel around his wound. I wanted to find a fragrance free natural skin care balm and picked this up at the grocery store.  I carefully applied this to his face and found it to be non-irritating and gentle.  The balm helped to relieve the dryness and discomfort he was experiencing.  

Later, I decided to try the balm on my own lips and around the cuticles. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it absorbed into my skin.  The balm moisturizes the skin easily and it never feels sticky. I highly recommend this balm from Badger.

I confess: this is my GO-TO balm. I use this to remove my makeup, to tame the ends of my hair, as a cuticle treatment, heel softener, and even as a highlighter! Add a TINY bit at the cheekbone's highest point and you'll see what I mean.

Why it works: Would you believe there are only two ingredients in this balm?  These include certified organic olive oil and beeswax.  Both are nourishing and protective to the skin, making it a truly effective product.

Is it for me?  Are you looking for a multi-purpose natural balm for your entire family?  If so, this is the product for you.  There is no scent at all, so men and those with sensitive noses will not object to this one.  It is no frills and affordable, but works as well as other natural skin care balms.

Why I like it: The scent of this balm is absolutely exquisite.  It is a pure and natural blood orange, which is both tart and sweet at the same time. When you massage the balm into your skin, you will experience both skin care and aromatherapy benefits.  The blood orange is invigorating and energizing, while the texture of the balm is soothing. When I use this product, I truly feel as though I am walking through a citrus grove.  The scent is intense, as is the level of nourishment to the skin.

Why it works: This balm is chock full of skin nutrients such as beeswax, jojoba oil, antioxidant vitamin E, and olive oil.  In fact, this balm is 80% olive oil. The result is a rich, luxurious moisturizer suitable for even the driest of skin types.

Is it for me?  80 Acres makes spa-quality body balms.  This is ultra-pampering and is a treat for those who love the aromatic nature of citrus scents.

Why I like it: This shea butter balm from L’Occitane is one of my favorite balms because it can be used from head to toe.  Whether it is to help repair split ends in your hair or to treat cracked heels on your feet, this is a multi-tasking skin care product.  I’ve used this as an eye balm, lip balm, dry elbow remedy, cuticle cream and more.  It truly is for everything.

Why it works: The shea butter, pure and simple, is why this works so well.  It is the only ingredient in this natural skin care balm, and it is an effective one.  L’Occitane partners with women from Burkina Faso to source their shea butter, which is rich in vitamin E to soften and treat dry skin.

Is it for me? This balm is ideal for those who like to splurge on their skin care products.  It is more expensive than the other products, but the lovely packaging is gift-worthy and the tin is just adorable. It is not for those on a budget or for those with tree nut allergies.

Why I like it: This lives up to the hype.  Of all of the balms I have tried, I have found this one to be the best suited for dry hands and feet, flaky skin on the legs, and even as a hand cream.  Unlike most balms, this one has ingredients in it to help increase the elasticity in the skin.

There is a pleasant natural scent from the lavender and because of this essential oil, I find it to be incredibly relaxing. Despite this one being smaller than the others, I find that this one actually is the longest lasting because I only need to use a small amount.

Why it works: This is a truly intensive balm because it features several different butters and oils.  You will find nourishing avocado butter, shea butter, and coconut oil in this balm.  In addition to these moisturizing butters, 100% Pure has added in sea buckthorn oil and antioxidants such as green tea.

Is it for me?  If you are vegan, this is a 100% vegan body balm.  It is also gluten free for those who have Celiac’s Disease.  It also contains anti aging ingredients so those with extremely dry facial skin may find that this serves double duty as a face balm.

Why I like it: I was first introduced to this balm as a post-shave redness reliever.  My legs often are dry, red, and itchy after shaving and I am always on the hunt for something to give me some relief.  This balm is just what my skin needs.  It plumps the skin to help it feel nourished and it also eases the itchiness on my legs. I love how this one is in a squeezable tube as opposed to a jar, so it is very user friendly. My legs are left feeling silky and soft.  Shortly after applying, the redness fades away quickly. I also love the subtle vanilla aroma, as it is warm and comforting.

Why it works: Aesop has combined a lovely blend of healthy ingredients such as macadamia seed oil, wheat germ, and soy to add moisture to extra irritated and itchy skin.  Combined with shea butter and cocoa butter, even the driest of skin types will experience an increase in hydration of their skin.

Is it for me?  If you like to put skin care products in your handbag to take along to work with you, this is a must.  It is the only balm on our list sold in a tube, making it highly portable.  If your skin is often irritated from shaving or waxing, this balm is ideal for you as well.

The Beauty Blogger's Favorite DIY Body Scrub

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Re-sharing my MOST FAVORITE body scrub ever! I have been making this for nearly a decade!

I love salt scrubs. As much as I love sugar scrubs, I like salt for serious exfoliation.

My favorite salt scrub from retail shops is the old Origins Salt Rub. It used to be over $30 per jar -- I started using this way back when Origins sold it in glass jars. It is not in a $31 tube. About ten years ago, I stopped buying the Origins and started making salt scrubs myself. It is easy and the homemade scrub we're going to make is (in my opinion) just as good as the pricey one!

Make your own salt scrub in a 16 ounce jar (weighs in about 27 ounces) at home for only about $2.00 for per jar with today's DIY project! I like to make several at one time which I just did earlier to give away as gifts!

Start with 1/4 c. salt and slowly add in essential oil

After oils are added to salt, blend!

Add a fresh sprig of parsley as a garnish! I also stir some into my scrub (chopped).
Store in a jar and label or decorate as you choose!

The results are wonderful. Your skin will be smoother than silk and feel like butter. If you've ever paid $100 for a spa "Salt Glow" treatment, consider doing this at home and you can do the treatment as often as you'd like!

Before you use it, heed this warning: SALT STINGS BROKEN OR IRRITATED SKIN! I learned this when I first used a salt scrub and didn't think about the sting factor. I applied it all over my legs after I shaved them. OUCH! Scrub first...then shave!

Let's Talk Ingredients

You'll need sea salts, carrier oils, and essential oils. This is a 100% natural product! If you are making a large batch, I recommend a preservative in case you get your wet fingertips in the jar.

I buy my sea salts right at Wegmans. They will come in different grains. I like to use coarse, so but you can use fine -- or a mix of each.

For the carrier oils, today I am using Grapeseed, Sunflower, and Olive Oil. You do not need to use multiple oils like I do. You only need one. I just like the blend of these oils. You also do not have to buy the same ones I have listed here. You can use any oils you have handy, such as jojoba, macadamia, even canola from your baking cabinet!

Now, for the essential oils, I am using Peppermint and Rosemary Essential Oils from Plant Therapy Essential Oils.

I also add in some chopped fresh parsley to my own.

This is a truly invigorating scrub to refresh the senses while giving your skin the royal treatment!

I also add in some chopped fresh parsley to my own.

This is a truly invigorating scrub to refresh the senses while giving your skin the royal treatment!

How To Make It

I start slowly. I like to do a bit at a time. We'll be using 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of oil today. I start by adding 1/4 cup or so of salt into the jar. Then I like to add just 5 drops at a time of essential oil (I add 10 drops of each essential oil total per scrub). Add some carrier oil. Then add more salt, more essential oil, etc. Stir a bit before you add in more salt.

Hmm. Now my scrub looks like applesauce.

Don't worry! I always give the scrub a very quick stir and your scrub will be back to looking very scrubby with the coarse grains visible.

This is a very simple project! I like to even add in a bit of fresh parsley. Why, you ask? No one really talks about the myriad benefits of parsley to the skin. It can help clarify and tone the skin, making it look fresh and bright. It also helps to reduce redness and swelling. I think it's a very underrated natural ingredient for homemade skin care, but it's worth adding in to your scrub.

So that is how you make your scrub! 1 part salt, 1 part oil, 10 drops of essential oil and a sprig of parsley! It couldn't be simpler. Just wait, though, to see how soft and radiant your skin will be!

7 Ways to Reduce the Appearance of Wrinkles & Age Spots

Once you hit your 40’s, you most likely will have been affected by two of the major signs of aging--wrinkles and age spots.  If you’ve ever worried that there is nothing you can do to turn back the clock, you’re in for a surprise. You can help reduce these common side effects of aging.

I'm here to share 7 ways to reduce the look of wrinkles and age spots.

1. Stop overcleansing.

Clean skin is essential.  However, so many of you are actually cleansing your skin too much and with harsh cleansers.  You only need to wash your face once daily.  If you thoroughly cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser in the evening to remove your makeup and environmental debris, your skin should be clean.  Simply rinse with water in the morning. Stripping the skin’s natural oils will only make your skin look older.

Try: Jane Iredale Beauty Prep Face Cleanser is my FAVORITE new cleanser. It's totally different than your typical cleanser, as this is a cleansing water. It is chock full of beneficial ingredients, including Cucumber Seed & Cucumber Fruit, Radish Root & Algae. Love it!

2. Sleep well.

There is a reason they say to get your “beauty sleep.”  When you are sleeping, your skin cells are repairing.  This is the key time for your nightly serums and creams to work their magic and get fully absorbed into the skin. A lack of sleep will show, making skin look duller and more wrinkled.

3. Go fishing.

If you do not eat fish, what are you waiting for?  Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for your health and your skin.  Eating a diet with plenty of omega 3’s can reduce inflammation and give your skin a radiant and plump look, which reduces the appearance of wrinkles.

4. Protect yourself from the sun.

If you are battling wrinkles and age spots, you have the sun to blame as a root cause of the problem.  Exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays is what causes skin damage, so you need to be sure to wear a hat and a broad spectrum sunscreen before going outdoors.  If you regularly avoid the sun’s rays at peak hours (between 10 am and 3 pm), your skin will thank you!

On my must-have list: My MOST FAVORITE broad spectrum mineral sunscreen is from Exuviance -- the Sheer Daily Protector SPF 50. It is a dream on all skin types and is never greasy or sticky. It debuted last spring and I will never be without it.

5. Try microdermabrasion.

There are many at home microdermabrasion systems, from peel pads to hand held devices.  Microdermabrasion takes exfoliation to a whole new level with crystals and can reduce both wrinkles and age spots with regular use over a short period of time.

Top pick: A couple years back, I was sent the Rejuvaderm MD Microdermabrasion System from Trophy Skin. I love it and am a faithful user. HERE is the original review.

6. Look for products with Coenzyme Q 10.

Coenzyme Q10 is a very potent antioxidant known for its cardiovascular benefits.  It also is the perfect place to start if you are trying to reduce wrinkles and age spots. Not only can this antioxidant help prevent the signs of aging, but it is believed to correct them with cumulative use.

The best in Q10 - Without a doubt, the best facial product on the market featuring an anti-aging cocktail which includes this ingredient is Estee Lauder NightWear Plus Antioxidant Night Detox Creme.

7. Take time to smell the flowers (sunflowers, that is).

We don’t often associate sunflowers with youthful skin, but sunflower seeds are a hidden gem when it comes to skin care. Sunflower seeds contain Sesamol, an antioxidant, which can fight the signs of aging.  They also help to reveal a smoother skin texture, making wrinkles less obvious. You can get the benefits of this antioxidant by eating sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter, or by drinking sunflower milk. You can also find some fab facial products enriched with sunflower seed oil.

My choice: I eat sunflower seed butter from Trader Joe's on Ezekiel bread regularly for my sunflower -- plus, there is a fantastic facial oil with sunflower seed oil from Bare Minerals that I can wholeheartedly recommend called Mineralixirs 5 Oil Blend.

You don’t have sit back and tolerate your wrinkles and age spots. You can help decrease these common signs of aging. Follow my 7 steps and you should start to see results in a few short weeks.

My #1 ingredient to avoid in beauty products? It may surprise you!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Not too long ago, a friend and I were sitting at Atlas Eats, a quaint little eatery here in I-town and she asked me what I thought was the worst ingredient in beauty and skin care products. She said, "Is it parabens? Sulfates? What is public enemy #1 for ingredients?"

No. It's not parabens or petrochemicals or sulfates. I paused briefly and said that it's Artificial Fragrance.

I have been writing about the research surrounding artificial fragrance for a few years now. At that time, I eliminated faux fragrances from my personal care products. My headaches stopped. My allergies were not as severe. And then I started using scented scrubs and body products again. I wanted to slather myself in scents like pumpkin pie, pistachio pudding, and in my favorite Amazing Grace perfume. Not surprisingly, the headaches and allergies came back full force.

A few months ago, I was assigned a magazine article about the possible dangers of artificial fragrance. Researching this once more prompted me to eliminate artificial fragrance again. There are just so many studies now about fragrance. Don't let companies tell you it's OK if they are using fragrance oil that is phthalate free. It's not just phthalates that make synthetic fragrances so bad.

Let's look at the science

It’s amazing how the faint scent of a certain perfume can transport you on an emotional journey. For me, it’s when I walk by the Estee Lauder counter and lift up the tester bottle of White Linen. It instantly reminds me of my paternal grandmother, who passed away in 2008.

With that one little whiff, I am almost able to hear her voice and see the remnants of her Rich and Rosy lipstick left behind on her bone china cup.Your nerve receptors, once hit with a fragrance, send a message right up to something called the Limbic System. This is within the brain and it essentially processes a scent and gives you a certain reaction. This is the system that triggers emotional responses to fragrance. Many people associate a certain scent with a person or memory.

The term “fragrance” is so familiar that one assumes it must be benign. Research indicates it is anything but. Your favorite bottle of perfume or scented body wash could very well be impacting your health.

When you are reading your product labels and see the word “fragrance” listed, know that this is just a blanket term for a larger group of chemical ingredients.

There are over 3000 chemicals used in fragrance oils.

The typical single bottle of synthetic fragrance oil contains a complex recipe of over 100 differentchemical compounds including amines, ethers, ketones, lactones, terpenes and thiones. Trade secret laws have made it so the companies do not have to disclose all of the chemical compounds found in the fragrance, so you will only see “fragrance”, “parfum” or “fragrance oil” on the labels. These chemical compounds are potential toxins linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, neurological disorders, and allergic reactions.

Quite alarming is the fact that the majority of fragrance oils contain benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and phthalates.

Why do you need to be concerned about these ingredients?

An abundance of research has been done in recent years examining fragrance and its impact on our health and the ecosystem.

The Environmental Working Group conducted an investigation into personal care products containing fragrance and the research showed that 75% of all fragrance contains phthalates.

Phthalates are chemicals that make vinyl and plastic softer and more flexible. They also are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors which are banned in the European Union. Studies show that phthalates may also damage the reproductive system.

In addition to the possible health implications, these compounds are dispersed into the air and can have grave effects on the ecosystem. When you use a laundry detergent with artificial fragrance, for example, it may harm our lakes and streams, while triggering your allergies at the same time.

That “natural” aroma of lavender or rose may be anything but.

This is another way consumers are often a bit misled by marketing. Let’s say you are buying a lavender scented perfume. One would assume that the scent is derived from lavender buds, right?

No. Fragrance oils are synthetic and have been created to mimic the aroma of scents found in nature or in foods. Think about it. When you carve a pumpkin in October, does the raw pumpkin smell like a freshly baked pie? Not at all. The pumpkin lotions and creams you buy each season don’t actually smell like the real deal - pure pumpkin - they smell like the desserts we love so much. The scent isn’t derived from an actual pumpkin, but rather from a laboratory using a chemical cocktail of sorts to mimic the aroma of a sweet pie.

Is your scented lotion giving you a headache?

There is mounting evidence that fragrance is harmful, even toxic. The watchdog EWG’s Skin Deep Database now ranks fragrance a very disturbing 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with score of 7-10 being described as a “high hazard” to health.

As a mom, I am troubled by the fact that nearly all products marketed to my kids are not just full of harmful chemicals, but contain copious amounts of fragrance. Of course, I want to oblige if my child sees a product in the aisle and wants to smell like a strawberry milkshake or a banana split, but at what cost?

There is much we do not yet know about the consequences linked to artificial fragrance. Here is what we do know, though. Ailments associated with the chemical compounds found in fragrance include migraines, asthma, and allergies. Those suffering with chemical sensitivities are also impacted. Perfume can trigger such negative health effects that those with chemical sensitivities are unable to work.

McBride vs. City of Detroit is the first court case dealing with perfume in the workplace. The plaintiff became seriously ill whenever exposed to a co-worker’s perfume and needed to seek medical treatment. Her perfume-induced illness set a precedent and chemical sensitivity is now recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you have seen your doctor and ruled out any other health issues linked to your headaches, asthma or allergies, consider eliminating fragrance from your daily routine and see if it makes a difference.

Essential oils provide a healthier fragrance option

Until the time comes when formulators are able to create a truly safe and natural synthetic fragrance oil, do you have to forgo perfumes and scented lotions altogether? No. Natural essential oils can be used to create any scented products synthetic fragrance can, although the selection is a bit more sparse.

What are Essential Oils?

The term "essential oil" is a bit misleading, truth be told. An essential oil is actually a concentrated compound and not an oil at all. These compounds come from various parts of plants. They can be extracted from flowers, bark, resin, leaves, roots, and peels. They are typically extracted through a method called distillation.

Distillation can occur chemically or through steam and you really want them to be steam distilled. It is not always an easy process, as it is sometimes much more difficult to extract these natural compounds. While perfumes and body products scented with natural essential oils are typically more expensive, you’ll find that a little goes a long way and your products will last longer.

Unlike synthetic fragrance oils, which offer no benefits, there are many benefits of essential oils. Research shows that the aroma of essential oils can help relieve stress, give you more energy, and even help you fall asleep at night.

5 products I love without artificial fragrance

Ren Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk is ultra soothing and calming. Without artificial fragrance, this uber gentle formula calms and soothes with chamomile, black currant seed oil and more. Find it at Sephora.
Pangea Organics Brazilian Brown Sugar With Cocoa Butter Body Polish is like a trip to the spa in a jar. This invigorating body scrub sloughs off dead skin cells and smells exquisite using only natural extracts & essential oils.

Avene Eau Thermal Spring Water is a fragrance free hydrating skin spritzer you can use as a toner or makeup setting spray. Sensitive skin types will find that if you pop this in the fridge and spray it on throughout the day that it will provide a sense of calm.

Original Moxie Get Fresh Shampoo has been a favorite for-evah. It lathers well, but is free of sulfates and it smells so fun and fresh (like limes) with its essential oil blend. You'll love it!

Seed Body Care Fragrance Free Gentle Body Wash is sulfate-free and plant based. Best of all, though, it is available in a completely fragrance free option. If you want a scent, though, never fear! Seed Custom Blend Body Wash allows you to mix and match essential oils to create your own natural blend. They also offer other scent options all without artificial fragrance, as well as Good to Grow, a line for babies and young children.

The Best Red Lipsticks for Spring 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

Red in every shade is again trending in spring makeup, but it's a look many are intimidated by.

“Many women fear reds because they tend to buy the wrong shade suitable for their complexion. Finding the right shade is key,” says eco makeup artist Sally Biondo. Biondo, an organic beauty expert, has enhanced the natural beauty of celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Hilary Duff, and country songstress Naomi Judd. With just a few easy tips, Biondo shares her thoughts on achieving gorgeous red lips.

A classic red pout is timeless enough for women of all ages to wear anytime. Once just reserved for night time looks, Biondo says that when paired with a soft neutral eye and a hint of cheek color, red lips are perfectly appropriate for daytime wear.

Biondo says that the trick to pulling off the look all comes down to your complexion, specifically your undertones. An easy way to find your undertones is by looking at the veins on the underside of your arms for clues. Once you’ve done this, finding your perfect red will be a breeze.  

  • Cool Undertones-- Those with rosy skin and green or blue eyes often look best in blue-based reds. If you look best in silver jewelry, chances are you have cool undertones. Women with cool undertones typically have visible blue veins on the underside of their arms. Try Boots No. 7 Stay Perfect Lipstick in Love Red, the perfect blue-based red hue.

  • Warm Undertones-- Those with yellow or peach in their skin typically have warm undertones and look best in an orange-based shade such as a tomato or brick red. Eye colors with this undertone typically range from hazel to brown. If you have warm undertones, the veins on the underside of your arms will appear slightly green and you will look better in gold jewelry rather than silver. Red Apple Lipstick in Risque is a stunning warm red.

  • Olive Undertones-- Women with olive undertones generally have a mix of both olive and yellow in their skin and tend to have a medium skin tone.  The veins on the underside of their arms are both green and blue. The ideal red lipstick for women with olive undertones is a coral red. A good red option for those with olive undertones would be Osmosis Colour Lipstick in Sassy.

  • Neutral Undertones-- Some women possess both warm and cool tones and can wear lipsticks with either base. Those with neutral undertones look good in both gold and silver. Choosing a red will be easier for you and almost any shade will do. If you are unsure whether you are warm or cool, choosing a lipstick with a neutral base will be a safe choice. A deep bold red with neutral undertones can be found in Ruby by Au Naturale.

  • Not ready to go bold? Do you love the red lip trend but are looking for something subtle instead of a high-impact lip? Try sheer lipstick or stain. Anyone can pull off a sheer red.  This will add a hint of red shine without having a full coverage look. Try Beautycounter Lip Sheer in Scarlet, a true red.

Tips and tricks for flawless application:

  • Exfoliate your lips. Mix equal parts sugar with a natural oil such as olive or sunflower for a homemade lip scrub. This will slough off dead skin and help prevent flaking. Smooth lips are key for lipstick application and red can be unforgiving if you have dry lips. Don't want to make your own? Try my favorite lip scrub in the world, Lush Mint Julips.

  • Moist lips are key! Nourish with lip balms containing natural ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa butter and grape seed oils. These ingredients help to keep lips hydrated and the natural oils may even provide anti-aging benefits. Even better, try Seed Body Care Lip Oil. I haven't used a singe balm since they debuted the oil!

  • To ensure a flawless, bleed-proof look, clean up the edges of the lip with concealer. Make sure the concealer matches your skin or it will draw attention to the area rather than camouflaging any mistakes. You can also try a flesh toned lip liner to seal in color. Try Cargo Reverse Lip Liner, which is a flesh shade to prevent feathering and bleeding without interfering with your lipstick color.

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