Natural Beauty

New Name + New Look!

I’m really excited to reveal a new name and new look to the blog today. AllNaturalAnnie.com is now officially BranchandVineBeauty.com!

Back in September 2008, I began my blog, All Natural Annie, as an outlet for my passion for holistic health and beauty. Since then I have done a few major things on my life to-do list, which includes getting married, becoming a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, and starting my own holistic beauty line.  The line is called Branch + Vine and hence the new name of the blog!

My blogging will be similar to what it has been in the past, but with more of a focus on holistic and slow beauty, which will still include lots of product reviews and more spa reviews. My line is still in the early stages, but I will have an Etsy page up very soon. My products will all be extremely pure using only ingredients found in nature. Every product will work to improve your health and beauty on a holistic level. I’m really looking forward to sharing my products with you as I continue to develop and grow Branch + Vine.

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Whether you are new to my blog or a reader for years, thank you for your interest and support. What an amazing little world this whole blogging thing has become and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. Thank you again :) ~Annie

Perfect Hand Cream

The product: Geranium Shea Butter Hand Cream by The Soap & Paper Company.

What it’s good for: Your hands, of course. But it’s also great for dry elbows, feet, legs, etc.

Key natural ingredients: Shea Butter, Aloe, Coconut Oil, Cocoa Butter, Beewswax, Borage Oil, and Meadowfoam Oil.

The price tag: $18 (or possibly less – I found it for $4.99 at TJ Maxx!)

Where to buyOrder online (when it’s back in stock) or hope to find it in a discount store like I did. While the Geranium is out of stock, they also have so many other awesome scents to choose from.

My favorite perk: There is no room for improvement in the consistency of this hand cream. It is so rich, yet not greasy, and absorbs perfectly. I also love the strong geranium scent. I don’t normally like strong scents, but because they actually use essential oils, the scent is really natural and very calming (geranium is known for that). I highly recommend using it before bed so you can reap the aromatherapy benefits and maybe even fall asleep a bit easier.

Before & After Sun

I recently tried two perfect products for summer from a fabulous ayurvedic line called PRATIMA.  The founder, Dr. Pratima Raichur, an expert chemist, botanist and Ayurvedic physician, creates her magical skincare products using 100% herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, plants and minerals from the earth. And 100% is truly a 100%. When you read a PRATIMA ingredient label it is guaranteed to be really simple and pure. These are two PRATIMA products I’m loving right now:

  • Neem Rose Face Sunscreen SPF 30 — This sunscreen combines neem, shatavari (a species of asparagus) and rose with zinc oxide to protect against harmful UVA, UVB and UVC rays. I love that this sunscreen has neem because sunscreens can often clog the skin and lead to breakouts, but neem is known to combat acne.  In addition, some research has shown that neem may even have anti-cancer properties. Rose is anti-inflammatory and excellent for wrinkles. I found that I could use this as a daily moisturizer and sunscreen in one. My skin is sensitive and I had only positive results – no sunburn, no irritation, no breakouts!

  • The Cucumber Aqua Gel — This the perfect after-sun soother with two of nature’s most cooling and calming ingreients – aloe and cucumber. I really love this gel for anytime of year. I use it as a nighttime treatment to soothe my sensitive skin and reduce any puffiness under my eyes. The scent is light and fresh (mainly cucumber-ish). Store in the refrigerator for even more of a cooling effect!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer so far!

Alegna Soap

What is it: Classic bar soaps that are handmade in small batches. Alegna bar soaps are available in four naturally fragrant scents: Peppermint, Lavender Lemongrass, Lavender and Honey Oatmeal.

What it’s good for: Unlike a lot of conventional bar soaps, Alegna’s are nourishing, not drying, and a great choice for sensitive skin.

Photo Credit: Alegna Soap

Key natural ingredients: Organic olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, and essential oils. Some of the soaps also have added botanicals like calendula and lavender.

Where to buy itOrder Online

How much: $6

My favorite perk: Angela, the founder and creator of Alegna Soap, is a New York State licensed Medical Technologist turned bath and beauty product maker. I love when a lady (or man) turns a passionate hobby into a beautiful business idea. Angela’s products are clearly a labor of love and you sense that every time you use them!

Best Natural Men’s Products

I have been meaning to this post for a LONG time — some of my favorite beautifying products for the male sector. As I created this list, I intentionally kept price points down and quality and performance high. Here are some of my favorite picks in the following categories:

(1) DEODORANT

{Every Man Jack Deodorant in Citrus - around $6}

Cotton extract and witch hazel absorb wetness while the fresh scents of mandarin orange and lemon last all day.

(2) SHAVING CREAM

{Aubrey Men’s Stock City Rhythms Shave Cream – around $7}

This shave cream has organic avocado oil and wheat germ oil for a really smooth shave. Cedarwood, sandalwood and bergamot combine for a woodsy and refreshing scent. Camphor, menthol and organic eucalyptus add to the fresh scent and also provide an actual cooling affect on skin.

(3) AFTER SHAVE

{Herban Cowboy Dusk Soothing Carrot and Cucumber After Shave Balm – around $6.99}

This is actually my go-to product for razor burn. Relief is pretty much instantaneous.  The scent is sweet and earthy.

(4) SHAMPOO

{Avalon Organics Thickening Shampoo – around $10.99}

Is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t want stronger, healthier hair? This shampoo has the perfect ingredients (biotin, saw palmetto, wheat protein and vitamin E) for a healthy scalp and thicker locks.

(5) HAIR POMADE

{Brooklyn Grooming Vegan Fort Greene Hair Pomade – $26}

With a pure and simple mixture of shea butter and a few ultra nourishing oils, a small dab of this pomade goes a long way to style and moisturize hair. The mixture of rosemary, bergamot and lavender oils smell delightful and are also very nourishing to the scalp.

(6) CHAPSTICK

{Desert Essence Lip Rescue Ultra Hydrating - around $2.49}

This lip balm contains rosemary, gingko biloba and rich African shea butter for a trusted remedy for the driest of lips. The taste and scent is reminiscent of creamsicle in a good, not overpowering way.

(7) FOOT SPRAY

{HoS by Branch + Vine Cleansing Calm Foot Spray – $9.00}

I created this foot spray for House of Steep‘s line. It actually discourages and decreases foot odor. It also relaxes sore and tired feet with a mix of therapeutic essential oils.

I have to admit that part of my judging criteria is whether or not I find myself stealing these products from my husband… I can testify that these all get stolen regularly. I had him weigh in as I created this list and he concurs with my picks. Thank you Dylan for always being my guinea pig :)

You can find all (or at least most) at your local Whole Foods or your local health food store. This list could go on and on so just let me know if you would like any other recommendations!

Free People Eco Line Launch

It’s not often that I talk about clothing, but I’ve always been a fan of Free People and now their latest line, Maheya, sounds so interesting and is beautiful as usual!

Basic Info:

  • Line launches on Earth Day (Today!)
  • Maheya means “from the Earth”
  • Pieces are colored with natural dyes derived from medicinal herbs that contribute to the conservation of nature and even provide benefits for the wearer’s skin, acting as antioxidants.
  • Natural materials used include marigold flowers, rhubarb, lilac, natural indigo, pomegranate skin, and annatto seeds
  • Natural fabrications of silk and cotton
  • Free People’s Maheya line will debut with seven pieces, each epitomizing the effortless style of the Free People brand
  • Each piece comes with a seed paper hangtag printed on 100% recycled paper that when planted, will grow into wildflowers (love that!)
A few peaks at the new line…

 

 

 

Hope everyone had a chance to appreciate and enjoy nature today!  
Happy Earth Day :)

Goodbye to Puffy Eyes

I recently discovered Odacité, a skincare line that not only uses high quality organic ingredients, but their products are also freshly made and dated! Pretty awesome. Also awesome – Monika Peters, Odacité esthetician and skin coach, was kind enough to provide me with some very easy and natural ways to address a very common problem – puffy eyes. She told me that puffiness under the eyes appears for a number of reasons including lack of sleep, a high salt diet, hormone fluctuation, inflammation, fatigue, dehydration, and/or genetics.

Monika’s DIY Tips:

  • Organic green, white or rooibos tea reduce puffiness and rejuvenate the eyes by refreshing them. I like to freeze green tea water to make ice cubes. Keep these ice cubes on the eyes in a cotton cloth for 20 minutes.
  • Potato and cucumber juice also work wonders. Apply with a cotton ball around the eyes. If you can’t juice them: lie down, close your eyes, and apply cold cucumber or potato slices to your lids. Leave on for ten minutes and remove. Wash the area with cold water. This soothes tired eyes instantly, and helps boost blood circulation in the under-eye area.
  • If you practice yoga, inverted asana postures are helpful (like the one below).

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  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water everyday. We can’t stress this enough. If you do not drink at least eight glasses of water everyday, you are not providing your body with as much water as it requires for flushing out toxins. Do not wait until you are thirsty before drinking, by the time your body cries “I’m thirsty,” you are already severely dehydrated.
  • Avoid beverages that contain caffeine.
  • Avoid smoking and second hand smoke.
  • Gently tap your skin where puffy, as this can encourage fluid build up to release and drain more easily.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners, as these can cause your body to retain more fluid. (So give up those diet drinks stat!!)
  • Be sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night – too little sleep will lead to dark circles and puffiness.

Thank you for the wonderful tips, Monika! Odacité review coming soon.

Try out some of these tips this weekend and rejuvenate that delicate eye area! Happy Friday :)

Queen Bee of Green Tea

It always seems that the DC area gets its worst storm of the season right when we think winter is over. Our “worst storm” turned out to be a lot more bark (large snowflakes & wind) than bite (zero accumulation). I’m not complaining at all though. It gave me good reason to stay inside and cozy in my pajamas all day. It also lead to the creation of two firsts: (1) a matcha green tea face mask and (2) a matcha green tea latte. For those of you not familiar, matcha is a Japanese finely-milled green tea.

Matcha Face Mask:

  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 2 tsp rose water or good quality water (I used rose water)

How to:  Mix ingredients until you have a nice smooth paste. Apply to clean skin. Leave on for 10 minutes . Wash off gently with warm water. Pat (never rub!) skin dry. 

I noticed my skin was brighter and smoother right away. Such an antioxidant overload (in a good way) for your face! This mask is beneficial for all skin types.

Matcha Latte:

  • 12 – 16 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I use Trader Joe’s) + a splash of organic whole milk (milk amount based on mug size)
  • 2 teaspoons of matcha powder (I got mine here)
  • honey to taste – I used 1 heaping teaspoon  (I’m currently using Trader Joe’s Organic Wild Collected Raw Honey, which has a very interesting nutty flavor)

How to:  Heat milk in a small pot on medium heat until nearly boiled. Add matcha and honey. Whisk vigorously until tea is frothy. 

I know I didn’t do this the 100% proper way (read here), but it turned out really great. Although, I think sifting the matcha first would have helped with not having left over matcha at bottom of the latte or maybe I just didn’t put enough elbow grease into the whisking :)

Healthy benefits: Matcha is believed to boost metabolism and  lower cholesterol levels when consumed on a regular basis. Matcha’s powerful punch can largely be attributed to the fact that the whole tea leaf is ingested. This means that it delivers a much higher potency of chlorophyll, catechinsand antioxidants.

Dry Hands?

What is it: (seed) Healthy Hand Cream

What it’s good for: Healing and protecting the driest of hands.

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Key natural ingredients: Rich and therapeutic seed oils including Grape Seed, Sunflower Seed, Jojoba Seed and Safflower Seed. This Seedology® is calming, protecting, anti-aging and extremely moisturizing.

Where to buy it:  At one of these (seed) retailers.

How much: $6.99 – $8

My favorite perk: The relaxing lavender scent, which instantly transports me to some of my favorite spa experiences. (The hand cream is also available in Invigorating Citrus and Fragrance-Free.)

A.N.A. featured on WebMD

I recently had the opportunity to provide some of my favorite homemade, natural beauty recipes to WebMD. I’m really excited to have three of my recipes now featured on the site and I’m even more excited to see WebMD’s interest in the realm of natural beauty!

Here are a few recipes to try at home that will help you get 2013 started off on a naturally beautiful foot:

Soothing Oatmeal Face Mask

Purifying Lemon Ginger Foot Soak

Rejuvenating Coconut Oil Hair Mask

A belated Happy New Year everyone! I hope it’s a very happy and healthy year for you. I want to thank you for being a reader of AllNaturalAnnie.com. This blog started out as an outlet for my love of holistic health and natural beauty back in 2008. While I’m still just as passionate about these topics, I know my posts have been a lot less frequent this past year. I truly appreciate everyone who continues to be a reader and I plan on having posts be a lot more frequent in 2013!

Product of the Week

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I wanted to start this week off by talking about a company I’ve always wondered about and finally tried. Farmaesthetics is a 100% natural line that uses certified organic herbs, flowers, oils and grains from American family farms to create their wide range of skincare products.

Farmaesthetics’ Midnight Honey Bath & Beauty Oil is my latest favorite product for moisturizing, especially now that the weather is colder and my skin is drier.  The best time to use this incredibly sweet and rich smelling oil is post-shower when you’re still a bit damp and pores are open so the oil is more easily absorbed by the skin.  With just 3 ingredients (sweet soy oil, honey absolute and vitamin E) the Midnight Honey Oil is just like the rest of the Farmesthetics line — a really simplistic yet well thought out and highly effective combination of ingredients from nature.

 

{Photo Credit: Farmaesthetics}

I can’t wait to visit Farmaesthetics’ flagship store in Newport, Rhode Island one of these days. It looks like such a lovely space and it’s in one of my favorite places.

You can see the store and learn more about the line in this 2 minute interview with the founder, Brenda Brock:

 

Old & New Favorites

It’s been a really long time since I was this impressed with a face mask. Plenty of masks can work “well”, but I think a really awesome masks shows you its powers of improvement pretty much immediately.

Earth Science’s Papaya-Glycolic Gentle Skin Peel did just that.  I applied it to clean skin, waited until it dried (about 10 minutes), peeled it off and voilà – immediate improvement! As I washed away the remnants of the mask (it didn’t peel off perfectly) I saw that dead skin was also being washed away, my skin was brighter, pores seemed smaller and it didn’t dry out my face at all. I’m in love.  This peel really does what you would hope using natural yet truly effective ingredients and it’s super reasonable at about $14.

I really went all out last night because I also did my all time favorite mask - Aztec Indian Healing Clay. If you haven’t tried it before, you MUST. You simply must. You can find it at Whole Foods and it’s only around $6. You have to mix the clay with water (or apple cider vinegar), but there’s really very little effort involved.  It works like no other to draw out toxins and purify the skin. It’s also really healing for breakouts.  You can actually feel it tightening and pulsating on your face as it dries. I had a friend try it last night for the first time and she was really impressed. She keeps telling me how smooth her skin feels today.  I can’t say I’m surprised -  I really think this clay just might be the “world’s most powerful facial”.

Have you tried either of these? What’s your favorite face mask?

Product of the Week

This week’s pick comes from Belmondo, a skin care line that hand makes all of their products in small batches in British Columbia.  The first Belmondo product that caught my eye was their No-Rinse Face Cleanser aka The Rain.

I’ve experienced the amazing cleansing and rejuvenating effects of using apple cider vinegar as a toner so I was happy to see ACV as one of the cleanser’s main ingredients.  In case you’re concerned that you’ll smell like a salad, don’t worry – once you apply the liquid (with a cotton ball) and leave it on (remember – it’s NO RINSE), the slight essence of vinegar quickly dissipates. The inclusion of rose essence and lavender oil also gives this cleanser a nice, light floral scent.

I love how the ingredients of this cleanser are so simple yet effective and I really love how clean and soft my skin feels after I use it. I also think their packaging is awesome.

This cleanser is excellent for all skin types. Belmondo tests all their products on willing two-legged friends, never on animals. You can order it online or check out some of their retailers here: Where to Buy.

p.s. I promise that pictures from my first visit to France are coming soon! :)

Naturopathica Giveaway! {Closed}

I’m so excited to host this giveaway from one of my all time favorite lines – Naturopathica. You have the chance to win a full size Vitamin C Revitalizing Complex ($58), one of their latest products that I have tried and truly love.

The Vitamin C Revitalizing Complex is a lightweight moisturizer that can be worn on its own or layered under your favorite moisturizer for increased hydration.  This “antioxidant cocktail” contains Vitamins A, C and E to neutralize free radicals and prevent premature aging. The scent is light, fruity and fresh and the consistency is serum-like. It’s really hard not to love everything about this product.

HOW TO WIN:

  1. Leave a comment below and let me know if you have tried any Naturopathica products before
  2. For an extra entry, “Like” the Naturopathica Facebook page and leave a comment saying you did so
  3. For an extra entry tweet about this giveaway and/or like the All Natural Annie Facebook page (please leave a separate comment for each of these actions)

You have until 10:00pm ET Thursday, September 6th to enter. Visit on Friday, September 7th to see if you won!

All of my readers can also receive free shipping on any order now through December 31, 2012 — just use code vitc2012.

Sun + Perfume Don’t Mix

It’s best to avoid wearing perfume or cologne when you’re going to be in the sun for a prolonged period of time. Perfumes and colognes, especially those that contain oils from musk, sandalwood, citrus, bergamot, and vanilla, can actually be chemically changed by the sun. This chemical change can trigger an allergic reaction in the skin and increase the chance of hyper-pigmentation (age spots).  Yikes! But prevention is easy – the next time you’re headed to the beach don’t forget to use a healthy, natural sunscreen and skip the fragrance!

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Product of the Week

This week’s pick is LATHER’s Clear Head Balancing Balm. If you frequently suffer from headaches or any other upper body tension then this balm is for you. Put a dab on the problem area to relax nerves with soothing menthol and a relaxing, uplifting blend of lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and mandarin oils.

But you really don’t have to be in pain to put this balm to good use — it’s also ideal for healing any areas of dry or irritated skin. At only $9, I suggest always keeping this multi-use balm on hand.

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LATHER donates $1 from each sale to benefit the National Headache Foundation for headache awareness, education and outreach.

Product of the Week

This week’s pick is Plant Bio-Active Serum by The Pure – Natural Skincare. This serum contains some of my favorite natural and nourishing ingredients all compliments of the marvelous honeybee — propolis, royal jelly and honey.

What I love about this serum (and serums in general) is that it’s light weight and quickly absorbed by the skin. The structure of the molecules in a serum is generally smaller than that of a moisturizer allowing the serum to penetrate deeper into your skin.

The Plant Bio-Active Serum can be used daily for all skin types including sensitive. You only need a couple of drops to cover your face and neck so the 1 fl.oz. ($43) goes pretty far. You can use this serum under your usual moisturizer for extra toning and texture benefits. Or, I like to use it as an overnight treatment and in hotter weather, as a daytime moisturizer.

Body Oil Giveaway! (Closed)

I’m so excited about this week’s giveaway. Starting today, you can enter to win Kō Denmark’s Jasmine Neroli Rose Body Oil (a $42 value)

Description: A luxurious body oil leaving the skin silky-smooth and glowing. Enriched with precious jasmine, neroli and rose flower oils, this deeply nourishing body treatment helps smooth the skin, restores the skin’s elasticity and locks in moisture.

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This body oil is vegan-certified and totally free of all the body care bad guys like parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrance, PEG (Polyethylene glycol), TEA (Triethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine), glycol, phthalates, mineral oils and silicone.

To give you a better idea of how special this oil really is — it takes 8,000 handpicked blossoms to produce just 1 ml of jasmine, neroli or rose oil. Kō’s jasmine absolute is from India, the neroli essential oil is from Tunisia and the rose absolute is from Bulgaria.

HOW TO WIN:

1. Visit and leave a comment below saying what product you would most like to try

for extra entries (leave a separate comment for each):

2.  “Like” Kō  Denmark  on Facebook

3.  Follow Kō  Denmark on Twitter

4.  Subscribe to Kō  Denmark’s email newsletter

5.  “Like”  All Natural Annie on Facebook

Good luck. You have until 10:00am ET this Friday, March 4th to enter. Visit on Friday to see if you’ve won!