What I’m Using: February 2019

So it turns out, by happy accident, all the selected items I’m using this month are clean. But what do I mean by clean? Three of the four products I’m listing here can be found at Whole Foods, so we’ll start with their own Body Care Quality Standards linked here. The other product I’ve chosen is categorized as Clean at Sephora™, which, according to their site, means it’s formulated without the following: Sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban.

Do I have time to explain how I know each of these aforementioned ingredients are harmful, and in what quantities, over what length of time? Nope. Would I want to even if I did have the time? Nope. You get to do the work on that. I just get to talk about the stuff I like.

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The everyday lipstick: Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Rosewater

I kept hearing about this brand around the Gram and on IntoTheGloss, and so I hopped over to their Sephora page to look at their oft-praised lipsticks. Lo and behold, there’s a cute lil video that explains how each shade (a seemingly perfect, approachable and ultra-flattering range of just eight) is meant to fit into your beauty wardrobe. And since I’m a sucker for the whole “your lips but better” thing, I went with the first lipstick described- Rosewater. It’s a cool-toned pink nude described as being the lightest of the bunch and kind of like your favorite t-shirt. I’m very familiar with the favorite t-shirt situation because, as my friends can attest, I’ve been wearing the same Bane t-shirt for about seven years now.

The formula is incredibly moisturizing and it’s so natural and wearable that I can treat it like a balm. I’m already eyeing Undone as a potential new addition once I run out of something else.

The obligation: Evanhealy Lavender Facial Tonic Hydrosoul

So I ran out of my Aveda toner and decided to pursue a much greener replacement. And you thought Aveda was green! Did you know Aveda is owned by Esteé Lauder?! And that since that ownership has taken place, that Aveda’s typically “green” character has very much changed? Don’t get me wrong- Aveda’s Dry Remedy line will probably be an on-and-off staple of mine for life (so long as they don’t change the formula, which they’ve made a habit of doing lately), but when I foolishly picked up a bottle of their new Cherry Almond shampoo a couple months ago without first looking at the ingredients, I was so disappointed to find it full of sulfates and all kinds of other ingredients typical of cheap drugstore shampoos.

But none of this really has anything to do with the Evanhealy toner. I’d eyed these Evanhealy “tonic hydrosoul” formulas at Whole Foods but never managed to smell the lavender one. I used an Amazon gift card to make this purchase from home one night and while I originally wanted the rose one, it was out of stock. Lavender is an ingredient I’ve used before and my skin has taken well to it, so I pulled the trigger. The reviews didn’t mention anything odd, though one girl said it smelled “more like vanilla.”

I have never smelled a nastier smell in all of skincare. I nearly gagged. This stuff smells like old milk. Get excited about the exclusively USDA organic lavender all you want- the stuff smells like garbage. And in case you haven’t gotten truly angry at a hypocrite today … I’m continuing to use it here and there. What?! Just because something smells funky to you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad product! But truthfully, I’m continuing to use it because I wasted half a gift card on this and I now feel obligated as I can’t send it back. As to whether it’s effective or not, well, it’s toner. You pretty much don’t need it anyways. Hooray for that “green” Aveda replacement.

The secret to amazing foundation: Weleda Skin Food

About ten years ago in a fit of hypervigilance, I started “greening” over my entire face and hair routines. I read about three books, researched questionable ingredients for the ones most commonly agreed to be harmful, and scoured natural grocery stores in southern California for the best that natural beauty had to offer. It was around this time that I discovered Weleda Skin Food, an extremely rich moisturizer with a thick base of oils and beeswax meant as a cure-all for dry skin. I couldn’t imagine slathering the stuff on regularly (a little goes a really long way), but what did make sense was mixing it with makeup. Or at the very least, applying and massaging in a thin layer before applying foundation.

I had the fortune of doing a good amount of bridal makeup in my late twenties, and Skin Food was a staple on wedding days. It’s the perfect tool for giving a long-lasting glow under makeup, and everyone’s skin seems to take to it so well. I kind of forgot about Skin Food for a couple years as I experimented with other things, but I picked up a tube last month on Amazon and mixed it with a Lancome Teint Idole stick foundation for this look. How I’d missed the stuff! Oh also, I’m wearing the Kosas Rosewater here!

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The intoxicating fragrance: Nubian Heritage Goat’s Milk and Chai Body Lotion

This is another Whole Foods find I discovered via IntoTheGloss. Putting on lotion is one of the most boring things on Earth to me. You’d think something like data entry would be the height of tedium, not putting on lotion. But for whatever reason, if I have to put it on, I’ve got either do one of those in-shower lotion situations so it can be over quickly, or I’ve got to find a lotion I really love using.

Enter Nubian Heritage. Whenever I’m in Whole Foods I’ll always browse the body care section for anything that looks new and interesting, but lotion’s not typically one of those things. Very natural lotion formulas tend to separate and get messy or not moisturize as well as a couple drugstore lotions I’ve tried (yep- sorry), so I wasn’t sure how effective this stuff would be. But the smell!! Oh, the smell. The Goat’s Milk and Chai version of this lotion smells like … believe it or not … Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb. You know, probably the world’s best-selling perfume that they pump through the vents at the Crystals shops in Las Vegas? I cover my legs in this lotion and it leaves the most pleasant dry-down on my blankets and sheets. And, what do you know, it’s moisturizes like a pro.

Bonus! The midcentury jazz icon you need to know: Wes Montgomery

You know how you’d be walking around a department store as a kid, listening to that jazz guitar “elevator” music in the background that you thought was cheesy at the time and had no appreciation for? Turns out Wes Montgomery- a sound I know I would’ve written off as “elevator” during childhood- is the moodiest mood of moods, and it’s a sound you could use in your life. If you have no clue where to start, just look up “Bumpin’ on Sunset” on Youtube or something. And because you’ll be hooked from there, you can head straight to Wes Montgomery on Spotify and let him gently accompany you on whatever task is at hand: cooking dinner, folding laundry, writing this post, sitting staring out a window, yelling at your kids, anything. It’ll work.

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Five (Truly) Small Christmas Gift Ideas

I absolutely love shopping for gifts.  I love finding practical things, or things that remind me of the recipient, or items that might be trendy and push the receiver’s boundaries a little, even if they decide to take it back.

In general, I really enjoy the gift-buying process.  However, in years past, my spending has easily snowballed because of how much I tend to find or wanting to match the value of everyone’s gifts.  That can’t happen this year, though.  The gifts need to be much smaller, and yet I’d still like to have some fun putting them together.  So, what I have here is a list of five different, very small gift ideas you can give to the beauty or bath enthusiast you know that will provide them with a luxurious experience.  And the best part?  They’re all under twenty bucks (not including tax).

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Your own version of a “beauty sampler” or “beauty emergency kit”

Stores like Sephora like to sell their own beauty “emergency” kits, but they can still cost quite a few bucks even for the value they might have.  Beauty box subscriptions can also be really fun, but they certainly cost more than a flat rate of twenty bucks.  If I were to create my own version of sampler for a friend, I might think of it as a “day to night” kit and include the following: a pair of false lashes, a perfume sample, a pack of blotting sheets, a travel-size dry shampoo, and maybe a mini version of some kind of lip color I like.

The fun thing about this idea is that you can really make it your own.  And it may sound incredibly cheap, but if you’ve acquired a lot of beauty samples over the past year, perhaps you can select a few of them based on what you know your friend enjoys, package them nicely, and there you go! Done.  This is an idea that could potentially cost you under five dollars.

Three of your favorite drugstore mascaras

Come on, what girl doesn’t love opening a new, fresh tube of drugstore mascara?  Now, if you go to Target, the prices on cosmetics will be cheaper so I’d suggest shopping there (or Wal-Mart, if you can manage the chaos).  Maybe you could determine your gift recipient’s favorite kind of mascara first and include that within the three.  What I’d probably do is choose one kind I know they like, one kind I know I like, and maybe a “wildcard”, like a new kind that perhaps neither of you have tried.  If you play it right and shop around enough, you can still come out under $20.

For instance, if I swing by Wal-Mart and purchase a tube of Cover Girl’s The Super Sizer by LashBlast ($5.94), Maybelline Lash Sensational ($6.94), and Maybelline Volum’ Express The Falsies ($5.94), I’m at a total of $18.82.  Easy.

A couple Korean sheet masks

Korean sheet masks are super trendy these days, but what’s fun about giving them is that you can choose a couple different kinds for different skin needs.  For instance, Tony Moly (sold at Sephora, along with a myriad of other brands) sells sheet masks in packs of two and there is huge variety to choose from within this line alone.  They have masks for radiance, clarity, hydration, pore care, and many others.  One pack of two costs $7.50, bringing your total to just fifteen bucks if you choose to give two packs.

A sheet mask is a nice little end-of-the-day thing to enjoy with a glass of wine and Netflix, or a soothing treatment to use on a plane ride that can prevent dryness.  And, the fact that many of your friends may not have tried them makes them a fun novelty that beats another bottle of lotion.

A couple bath bombs or beautiful soaps

Now, I know that not everyone takes baths so you may want to investigate your friend’s bathing habits first, but bath bombs are my current fave form of entertainment that doesn’t involve Cheetos or spending more money (although I guess you can always eat Cheetos while taking a bath- I’m not quite there yet).  Lush Cosmetics makes fantastic, completely natural bath bombs that turn sitting in a tub into a fizzy, whimsical, almost chic experience.  They all smell amazing in their own way, leave your skin feeling great, and have their own unique qualities that makes choosing just one such a difficult ordeal.  Bath bombs, I might add, are also very Instagram-able once they hit water.  None of Lush’s bath bombs cost over $7; you could choose one of the bigger ones as a single gift or two smaller ones.

Another similar idea is to give a couple lovely soaps.  I know that Cost Plus World Market carries a huge variety of beautifully-packaged soaps for around five or six bucks each, and I personally love displaying them in their pretty packaging or on a cute soapdish to use.  Whole Foods carries a nice variety of ethically-made and ethically-traded soaps too for around the same prices.

A single, awesome candle

You can find great candles – and even better, soy candles – everywhere, for a whole range of prices.  My favorite thing for candles is to find a small business that carries a few different kinds to choose from.  The city I used to live in had an amazing old town area where you could find lots of unique ones; I’d suggest digging within your area for the small businesses and see what they have first.  However, you can always go to Target and choose a big soy candle with great packaging that your recipient will enjoy displaying.

Nowadays I get all my candles from Target (as I haven’t explored too many small businesses yet), and they’re the easiest way to make your home feel just a bit more luxurious.  Even if I don’t actually like the scent of a candle I receive, I can still burn it outside on my patio or in the bathroom when guests are over.  They are always useful, no matter what.

Let me know of any reasonably-priced gift ideas you’ve had for the beauty addicts in your life.  A great beauty gift doesn’t always have to be the latest Naked palette or a full-size bottle of perfume.  If you offer beauty services yourself, you can even gift a free blowout to a friend, a free mini makeover, or whatever you feel suited to give.  I mean, this is always an option:

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Merry Christmas!  xo, MR

In praise of Whole Foods … or, I blame the hippies.

Long have I praised the good name of Whole Foods to my friends and on this blog for its wealth of natural resources when it comes to beauty, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve felt somewhat judged for my devotion to the establishment. But I get it- Whole Foods can be a real hotbed of pretentious bobos. I find myself throwing massive shade at the folks wandering around the place every time I visit. Wealthy forty-somethings driving their nice cars, fresh from their CrossFit workouts, making a quick stop at Whole Foods to pick up their certified organic produce that costs ten dollars per pound, or their preservative-free kale chips, or their Vegenaise, and other things that make life not much fun. Buuuut my allegiance to Whole Foods, or at least the health and beauty department, cannot be denied. Like the need for a tax increase on Bod Man body spray for men, it cannot be denied.

I didn’t exactly stumble into a Whole Foods one day and then just fall in love with what I found there. In fact, I’m sure it was quite the opposite. I recall health food stores in the nineties being more associated with the blue-haired folk, trying to preserve the last signs of life and vitality (along with their colon). But then something happened with the turn of the century, and I think it was Al Gore (which kind of spoils the fun), but suddenly “green” became the hip thing to do. Green was everywhere. Green cars, green food sourcing, and green beauty. I can’t remember exactly what started me down my journey of green beauty, but it’s come to my attention in recent years (I’ve been trying to go green for about five) that Whole Foods is thee mecca for effective green beauty brands. Here, a look at my local (and HUGE) Whole Foods:

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My particular store that I go to is pretty big, but that’s good news for all of us because the selection is overwhelming in the most awesome way. There’s every kind of “green” brand that you may find in Target or a drugstore, but keep in mind that a lot of these brands suffer from what folks call “green washing”, or the appearance that the product is safe and natural but doesn’t contain a list of truly trustworthy ingredients. The packaging or container might be biodegradable, but perhaps the actual product isn’t. Or there maybe are a select amounts of organic oils within the product, but the rest of it is made of synthetic crap like everything else. Your best strategy- learn to read a list of ingredients and educate yourself on some of the most risky ingredients found in body and beauty products. This kind of information is available easily with just a Google search. I also highly recommend reading The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel. I love brands like Weleda, Dr. Bronner’s, Desert Essence Organics (at least for their face products, but not for hair), and John Masters Organics for their very clean ingredients.

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Some of the skincare brands found at Whole Foods (and Sprout’s or Mother’s Market, too) can be pricier compared to, say, an eight-dollar bottle of Neutrogena moisturizer, but I’m convinced it’s worth it. Some will argue that their skin does just as well with a drugstore brand and that there isn’t a need to switch to greener products, but I say if you can cut out any shady chemical ingredients (with links to early-onset Alzheimer’s and various cancers) while maintaining great skin for a few dollars more, why not?!

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If you do enough reading on blogs or in magazines associated with beauty, you’ll begin to memorize the names of a few cult products that celebrities and artists swear by (but I’ve still yet to understand why Maybelline’s Great Lash mascara has such a stellar reputation … I hate that stuff!). One such product is this stuff called Egyptian Magic, a pomade kind of thing loaded with honey and different kinds of oils that treats the skin beautifully when slathered on regularly. However, a jar of it will set you back somewhere close to forty bucks! But check out the product that’s always sitting right next to it- Medicine Mama’s Sweet Bee Magic. The ingredient list is exactly the same and it costs half the price of Egyptian Magic. So while you’re foregoing the idea of owning the Egyptian Magic cult-favorite elixir, you’re getting a way better deal with Sweet Bee!

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And here, the one product that I swear by for every use under the sun- Dr. Bronner’s Magic Castile Soap. This stuff might be one of the most trusted brands among all green health and beauty names, and what’s awesome about it is that it’s truly all-purpose. We use it for body wash, but just yesterday I scrubbed my tub with it, used a bit to wash some dishes, and have even used a bit for washing my clothes when I was low on detergent! You can use it on your baby, your car, anything. And it comes in multiple scents, every one of which you can find at Whole Foods.

Like I’ve said, you can find some of these brands elsewhere (and possibly for a higher price), but you hit all the bases at a Whole Foods. I think they have Burt’s Bees there, too (which has a great reputation) and a whole slew of other lines that I haven’t even tried. If I can convince you to even just change one thing in your routine (and my vote is to start with Dr. Bronner’s), I’ve won! xo, MR