Natural Product Reviews

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!

Dry Hands?

What is it: (seed) Healthy Hand Cream

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

{via}

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.)

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:

 

A Healthier Candle Option

If you’ve been looking to be healthier in all areas of your life, an important aspect to evaluate is what you use to scent your home.  The majority of room sprays, diffusers, plug-in fragrances and candles all use very unnatural, synthetic ingredients, a lot of which are known to be hazardous to your health. The quality of the air you breathe is so important so why not control it when you can and make some healthy choices!

I love scenting my home with candles so I’m always looking for a brand that uses high quality, natural ingredients to create amazing scents at an affordable price.  Blissoma does just that. All of their candles are soy based and scented with 100% pure botanical essential oils. They never use phthalates, colorants, or additives.

The variety of blends is some of the best I’ve seen yet. So far my favorites are CELEBRATE, a spicy and warming mix of wild orange, clove and bay, and LOVE, a combination of ylang ylang, sandalwood, and balsam. Every one of their candles comes with instant aromatherapy benefits upon lighting – another plus to using candles scented with pure essential oils!


I love giving and receiving candles as gifts. What about you?

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.

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.

{via}

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.

Naturally Fresh Deodorant

The two main reasons that I was drawn to trying Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal was performance and price. I kept hearing how great it was and I saw how it flew off the shelves (when I worked as a Body Care Buyer at Whole Foods). In addition, at about $3.99 this deodorant is a comparatively good deal in the natural deodorant section.

I realized how good this deodorant truly is when I went camping for a few days. With only a lake as a shower and a strict scent-free to be bear-free policy, this natural deodorant really showed its true quality. When I’m not in the woods, I do miss having a deodorant with a scent, but this one works well enough that I still continue to use it (as well as my other, more pricey favorite by Lavanila).

Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal is 100% natural, contains no harmful parabens or aluminum*, and is made with pharmaceutical grade mineral salts. This is a smart natural choice for people with sensitive skin. This deodorant kills odor-causing bacteria while still allowing your pours to naturally detoxify.

*Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystals contains the naturally occurring compound Alum, not to be confused with harmful, processed aluminum (Aluminum Zirconium or Aluminum Chlorohydrate). Technically speaking, aluminum is a metal while Alum is a compound.  Many of these processed aluminum molecules can be absorbed into the skin and bloodstream. Alum molecules create a barrier against odor causing bacteria and contain a large molecule which does not penetrate the surface of the skin. {via}

Keep in mind: when switching from an anti-antiperspirant deodorant to a natural deodorant, your body might take some time to adjust to this healthier, natural choice…Give it time because it’s well worth the health benefits!

Product of the Week

This week’s pick is SILKtáge Rejuvenating Styling Serum

{via}

  • Main ingredients include argan oil, camellia oil, monoi oil & coconut oil
  • Rich in vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids
  • Contains no harsh chemicals, silicones, or preservatives
  • Repairs, softens, and adds shine to hair
  • Promotes healthy hair growth
  • Nourishes the scalp
  • My favorite use for this oil is putting it on dry/split ends and fly-aways
  • Totally amazing for hair, but also great for skin too (it has at least 30 benefits all together!)

Let me know if you give this one a try. Have a very happy weekend readers!

Product of the Week

This week’s pick is Limegreen‘s Hard Surface Spray:

Photo Credit: Limegreen

  • Made with only 4 ingredients: Deionized Water, Infused Distilled Vinegar, Organic Olive Castile Soap (made by Limegreen also) & Essential Oils
  • Perfect choice for a home with babies
  • Disinfects over 99% of bacteria
  • The Sunflower option has a delightful scent of citrus
  • You couldn’t ask for a safer cleaning product!

Healthier Options – Mascara

When it comes to switching to beauty products that are better for our health, I think deodorant and makeup are often at the bottom of the list when it comes to “going natural”. Deodorant because the ideas of sweating and/or not smelling pleasant aren’t appealing (but I swear there are excellent natural options out there — see previous post: Best Natural Deodorant) and makeup because women are skeptical of the quality and performance of the natural versions.

Well I was skeptical myself, but I’m happy to say that I have found natural versions of every piece of makeup that I would recommend to my readers. Today’s focus for a healthy switch is mascara.  Here are some options that are better for you yet still as effective as you would hope:

Mineral Fusion Lengthening Mascara — This is a great pick for making lashes dark and thick. It really feels like it’s nourishing your lashes with each stroke. This one is free of gluten, parabens, artificial colors, fragrances and talc.  It’s also hypo-allergenic. Costs around $14.99.

{via}

Organic wear® 100% Natural Lash Boosting Mascara –100% of the ingredients are of natural origin and 44% are from organic farming.  I love this one because it goes on really easily and doesn’t clump. It’s great at separating lashes and adding length. It usually retails for around $9.95 and you can even find it at CVS!

{via}

Product of the Week

This week’s pick is So Delicious Passionate Mango Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert. I’m not a daily dessert eater, but this is the kind of treat that I could see having on a nightly basis. It’s sooo tasty and definitely on the healthier side.

{via}

  • dairy free yet super creamy
  • intense mango flavor – if you love mango, this dessert is for you!
  • high in fiber
  • sweetened with organic agave syrup
  • gluten-free
  • vegan-friendly
  • so, so delicious!

Let me know if you’ve had this one already or if you give it a try!

Product of the Week

This is the start of a new series – Product of the Week – where I’ll highlight one of my latest favorite healthy products. Please let me know if you have any specific category requests!

Today’s pick is a face mask by Naturopathica. Naturopathica, founded by a clinical esthetician and herbalist, has quickly become one of my go-to lines for beauty products, especially face masks.

{via}

The Aloe Replenishment Gel has two desert succulents as its main ingredients – aloe and prickly pear cactus.  I love that this mask goes on clear (just like aloe) and I found it gentle enough to leave on overnight.  It’s a perfect choice for anyone who experiences redness, dryness and/or breakouts. It’s also great for unproblematic skin types who just want a healthy boost.  To make this mask even more calming, try storing it in the fridge.  An interesting fact – 88% of the ingredients in this mask are derived from organic farming!

 

New Beauty Regimen

As you all know, I am constantly trying out new beauty products — some aren’t for everyday use (like face masks), others are too pricey so I don’t re-buy unless I think they are really worth it, and then some are just not awesome enough for a second chance.

Today, I wanted to share what I’m currently using on a daily basis. It’s my latest and possibly my favorite beauty regimen to date. Here are the very natural, multipurpose, and affordable products I would highly recommend:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Liquid Soap – My new daily face wash. It gets rid of dead skin like no other, but doesn’t over-dry or irritate my sensitive skin. It’s powerful stuff so they recommend diluting it, but to be honest – I don’t! I use just 2-3 pure drops, put it directly on my skin, and wash it off quickly. If you google a bit, a lot of people have found this to be extremely helpful for acne. Added bonus – this soap literally has at least 17 other uses. I think I have finally found a face wash that I will use for life. ($6.39 for 8 oz)

  • Baking Soda – Combine about teaspoon with a little water in your hand and you have yourself a incredibly cheap and effective yet gentel facial scrub.  I use this 1 – 2 times per week. ($1 for 16 oz)

  • Heritage’s Rose Petals Rosewater - A perfect facial toner for all skin types, but especially sensitive or mature. It’s so simple yet so luxurious – it smells like pure roses! Naturally loaded with vitamin C, it aids in collagen production. I put a little on a cotton ball and use it on my entire face and neck after I get out of the shower. ($5.49 for 4 oz)

  • derma e® Hyaluronic Acid Serum – I am LOVING this as my daytime moisturizer. My skin absorbs it so well and it has such a nice light scent of plumeria. The hyaluronic acid draws in moisture plumping skin and reducing the signs of aging. It’s oil-free making it a great choice for those who are blemish-prone or just don’t like a heavy moisturizer. ($29.50 or less for 2 fl oz)

  • Egyptian Magic – A friend told me how she was using it around her eyes (to prevent lines) so I decided to give it a try. This all purpose balm has some of the most therapeutic natural ingredients around. When I occasionally get eczema on my hand, it clears it up within an hour or two. If used only as an eye cream, a little goes a long way so then the price becomes incredibly reasonable for the size ($37.20 for 4 oz ).

  • Desert Essence Blemish Touch Stick - With a roller ball applicator, this all natural blemish treatment is so quick and easy to apply. I love that it goes on clear, unlike many blemish treatments. Also, studies have shown tea tree oil to be as effective as benzyl peroxide for treating pimples! ($6.59 for .33 fl oz)

  • Aloe Vera Gelly by Lily of the Desert – I use this as my night cream becomes I am so sick of products (natural and not quite so natural) clogging my pores. This cooling gel leaves skin noticeably nourished and calmer by morning. It’s an excellent choice in general if you’re prone to redness/irritation.  ($4.59 for 4 oz)

Do you have a beauty regimen? I would love to hear what it is!

New Zealand’s Living Nature

I recently had the chance to ask Lorraine Downes, spokeswoman for Living Nature, a few questions to help my readers get an inside look at this natural skincare line. Hope you enjoy. This will be the first of many more company interviews to come!

  1. Please tell us a little about your journey and the founding of Living by Nature. Living Nature approached me to be their first ever spokesperson. It was perfect timing as at that time, I was seriously looking at my life and how I was going to approach my 40’s and the aging process. After making the decision that I was going to age naturally, and trialling the product for six months, I joined forces with Living Nature. Living Nature was founded in 1987 by Suzanne Hall who started using NZ native plants to make skincare products for her own skin as she wanted to use only natural ingredients. Today it is privately NZ owned.
  2. How does living in New Zealand impact the formulation of the line? NZ is known for its nature and its native plants which have been used medicinally by Maori (people of NZ) for centuries. So, the range is based on the unique native botanicals like Harakeke Flax, Totarol, Manuka Honey, Manuka Oil, Hallo Clay and Kelp found only here in NZ.
  3. What sets Living Nature apart from other natural beauty companies? Firstly, all the products are 100% natural and not many companies can say that. Living Nature’s products carry the BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics Seal which is a world-leading independent auditor of natural skincare, and set some of the most rigorous standards worldwide for naturalness. The products are made here in NZ at the Living Nature’s own factory where all product development, formulation, filling and dispatching is done. Even the packaging has no nasties in it and is recyclable and 100% free from BPA and phthalates. The recyclable paper packaging uses vegetable dyes and inks and no chloride or dioxin.
  4. Could you choose one or two Living Nature products as your favorite(s)? I find this really hard to do as I love so many of the products equally! But I would say the Radiance Night Oil which my skin just loves because of the wonderful bouquet of naturally healing and restorative oils-calendula, jojoba, rose,rosehip oil, frankincense, the smell is blissful! Lovely to apply just before bed. The Extra Hydrating Gel is exceptional as it truly nourishes and balances the skin and restores the vitality to my skin which at my age is a must.
  5. What products would you recommend to someone trying Living Nature for the first time? Obviously, the products should be in harmony with a person’s skin and its needs ie dry/oily/normal/mature etc. But I think The Radiance Night Oil, Vitalising Cleanser which is a very gentle and effective cleanser, Eye Make Up Remover-again so gentle, no stinging or oiliness with this product and Firming Flax Cream- fantastic for softening fine lines.

 

Lorraine Downes, New Zealand’s only ever Miss Universe and former Dancing With The Stars champion, joined Living Nature in 2010 to encourage women around the world to turn to 100% natural skincare as the healthy, safe and effective alternative to synthetic beauty products. Lorraine’s love of New Zealand and the miracle properties of the ancient native botanicals is what propels her to help women discover what she has discovered — you can take the healing and rejuvenating properties of nature and apply them to yourself. As a professional image consultant, she has worked with women for 25 years.

  {Louise Henderson, Living Nature’s Global Marketing Manager

& Lorraine Downes, Living Nature’s Spokeswoman}