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Monday, June 15, 2009

Easy Off Eye Makeup Remover

None of this should come as a surprise to you if you've been reading the posts and comments over the last few entries, but based on someone else's comment and my own research, you can use coconut oil to remove your eye (or any) makeup. Since I only wear mineral makeup on my face, I'm not too concerned about getting that off with the honey facial wash, but I have been using an Estee Lauder eye makeup remover to get my eye makeup off since I don't really want to get honey in my eyes.

The last few nights I've been trying out using coconut oil as a makeup remover and, holy smokes people!, it works super fantastical! Way, waaaaay, better than the commercial product and heaps more natural and inexpensive. I don't have to worry about what's in it and did I say that it's way more effective? I take a little bit and rub it on my eyelid and my body temperature melts it into a liquid (if it's not already) and it's great for taking off mascara and even waterproof MAC kohl eyeliner. And I don't have to rub and scrub to remove it, it's off in seconds.

You just need to be careful not to overdo it otherwise you'll get a little bit in your eye and your vision is a little fuzzy for a spell, but I'd rather have coconut oil in my eye than who knows what is in the commercial products. It doesn't sting or anything, it's just annoying.

If I keep this up, I'll be able to eat my entire beauty routine! I also have some other tips to report with the coconut oil, but I want to make sure I'm not fabricating results I'm having with it since they seem rather incredulous and whatnot, so stay tuned.

What do you use to remove makeup?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Honey facial wash

Okay, so after yesterday's conversation about eco friendly facial cleansers and Amber mentioning that she washes her face with honey, I had to do some research because, frankly, it sounded totally nuts. How in the world can your face get clean with something so darn sticky as honey?

Well, I found a huge, HUGE, thread on Mothering about washing your face with honey and I was somewhat convinced by the testimonials. Being totally dubious about it's efficacy, I read on. For those who have oily skin, they would mix in a little baking soda, but that sounded too drying. And for those who wanted a little exfoliating action, some would mix in some brown sugar or dissolved aspirin. And many used coconut oil as a moisturizer. So, being the human guinea pig that I am, I threw caution to the wind and gave it a try last night.

I was mostly concerned with its makeup removal abilities, so I used a clear liquid makeup remover on my eyes and then washed my face with a mixture of honey and brown sugar. My initial impressions are that I must have used too much brown sugar because it was pretty damn scratchy so next time I'll dial it back a bunch. The honey was really sticky but I was able to spread it. The whole concoction smelled deelicious and I didn't have to worry about whether or not it was toxic and whether or not it was stripping my skin.

But did it work? On my greasy skin? That was extra sweaty and gross from doing a ton of gardening on a hot afternoon? Hell, yeah, it did. And I was totally surprised because I was expecting it to be a sticky mess. My skin felt totally smooth and non-oily. As a follow-up, I applied coconut oil (that I use for soap making and lotions and whatnot) to the areas around my eyes, mouth and cheeks that tend to get dry. I was expecting that to be totally greasy, but it wasn't. The oil absorbed really quickly.

Of course, this is the result after one mere application, but if things keep up, I'll be hooked. I'm always very concerned about the crap I put on my face but rather unwilling to run around looking like a giant zitty greaseball. I'm also concerned about my aging skin and use anti-aging products that do who knows what to me internally. My mom always used straight up vitamin E from a capsule and she looks about 15 years younger than she is (although I'd have to chalk that up to good genetics), but maybe I'll have to try that as well since it's an antioxidant. I'll wait and see. And hopefully I won't have to give up like my ill-fated no-poo experiment.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on my progress! Has anyone else heard of this or tried it?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eco friendly facial cleansers

Reader Amanda emailed me asking:
I was wondering if you could do a review on your favorite eco-friendly facial cleanser. I am in the market for a new cleanser and want to get the best product for the least money that is the most eco-friendly. Who doesn't?! I am sure that you have a wider experience with these products and was hoping you would be able to help me out.

Well, let me tell you, I've used the gamut of cleansers. For a long time I used Noxzema to wash my face, but that got expensive (I was young and poor), so I switched to the generic brand of it. I then moved on to some drug store foaming facial cleanser that was similar in creaminess but easier to use.

From there I got fancy (by now I was making a lot more money) and began using Estee Lauder cleansers. At last (now more concerned about the products I was using) I settled on Alba Organics Pineapple Enzyme Cleanser and was pretty happy with it.

Now, let me back up and tell you a little about my skin type. I used to be a complete greaseball in my teens, then moved into greaseball status only in my T-zone in my 20s and now I am somewhat greasy in my T-zone but dry around my mouth in my 30s. So, in spite of trying everything from drugstore brands to department store brands, I found the organic choice to be equally effective. (As an aside, I love, love, love! Alba's Kona Coffee After-Sun Lotion as a body moisturizer - I just have to stop myself from wanting to lick it. It's a freaking vacation in a bottle. My facial moisturizer habits are a whole 'nother post.)

About a year-and-a-half ago I decided to do something rather crazy. Well, at least for someone whose skin tends to break out like crazy. I switched to using plain ole soap. Not Dove or Irish Spring or other petroleum-based soaps, but Dr. Bronner's. I was half expecting my face to explode, but it didn't.

In fact, my face felt less dry than using some of the other products. I use the bar soap in the shower in the morning and the liquid soap (diluted with water in a foaming pump dealie) at night. And I haven't looked back. No plastics, no petroleum, no nada. Just fair trade, vegetable-based organic oils wrapped in paper or refilled in bulk. And, even better, it's super cheap compared to the other products and I don't have to have multiple bottles of stuff taking up space.

So, even if you have über-finicky skin, you might want to give a natural or homemade, cold-processed, soap a whirl for washing your face. If that's just too risky, then check out the Alba line of cleansers. They have a coconut milk one that looks divine for dry skin.

What facial cleansers do you all use? Is it organic?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vivesana Organic Sun Care - Product Review

A few months ago I was asked to try out and review Vivesana Organic Sun Care products. Since I'm always on the lookout for more natural products and I'm a sunscreen crazy lady this sounded like a perfect fit. The only snag was that, well, it's Seattle and there's no sun in the middle of April. Or May.

So, it's taken me a few months to get around to really testing the product, but here's the scoop. Vivesana is the first 70% organic baby and high performance sun care on the market and the first 100% natural sun care with strong protection – the highest all-natural SPF (40 & 42) on the market. And it's the first sun care (as far as they can tell) to use exclusively US-grown organics and domestic, sustainable, BPA-free packaging. Are you noticing a trend here?

What does it all mean? To start, they use photo-protective organic botanicals to triple the SPF provided by natural minerals while providing deep moisturization. They also claim to use potent antioxidants to aid skin before, during and after sun exposure. They also state they removed water, fillers and all synthetics from the products. That means no phthalates, parabens, nanotechnology, plastic tubes, or anything at all from China.

Now that you know all the specs, I'm sure you are wondering about the product itself. I wanted to love this product, even though I'm not exactly sure how the 70% organic version really stacks up to something, say, like Banana Boat, as far as the ingredients go. The products are packaged in those old school metal (aluminum) style tubes and from the get go I was less than enthused because it's really difficult to squeeze it out. I don't consider myself to be lacking in forearm strength but perhaps I need to get back to working out with a squeeze ball or something because it was a struggle. Like shaky arms struggle.

Once I managed to extract some sunscreen, I went to town on my arms and was impressed by how creamy the product is. When they say it provides moisturization, they aren't kidding. Unfortunately, the product never really felt like it was fully absorbed and I was left with slick arms that left stains on my wood dining table when I rested them on it. I certainly didn't overapply and maybe I'm just used to sunscreens for the more finicky type that get absorbed rapidly, but this product did remind me of something we had when I was a kid - sure it provided coverage but at a cost of feeling like I had on a heavy moisturizer.

I must also state that I hate having greasy sunscreen on any of my appendages to the point of distraction. So, between that and the grease marks I was leaving behind, I ended up washing my arms. I must say that I was impressed because, even after washing my arms, the water still beaded off. Truly a water resistant product here.

I would definitely recommend this product for someone who has very sensitive skin or allergies to sunscreen or is very concerned about what is in their sunscreen and doesn't mind the tackiness, er, moisturizing. The biggest drawback, however, is that it sells for $30 for a 2.25 ounce tube. If I were to use 1 ounce a day (as recommended by the AAD) for coverage, well, you can do the math - that's about $400 for a month's worth of sunscreen.

What's your favorite sunscreen? Do you consistently use it or only when you are planning a day outside?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Organic Cotton Swimwear

In the June 2009 issue of Vogue, there are a number of eco fashions featured. Two items caught my eye - and both were bikinis made out of organic cotton. Now, let me first state that it's unlikely you'll see me in a bikini anytime soon, but you never know. It's certainly nice to visualize, I mean, fantasize.

Anyway, the thing I noticed was the drape of the bikinis. In other words, the way the suits didn't exactly fit like your standard swim suit made of synthetic materials (like nylon, Lycra, etc.). It reminded me of the cotton suits from the 1970s where they didn't exactly fit your body, but looked more like someone macrame'd them.

I'm exaggerating here slightly, and with models like Gisele and Cameron Diaz, it's hard to find fault with anything they wear. In the photo layout above (the one with Gisele Bundchen) the designer, Jenny Hwa, admits her suit is, "not going to function like a petroleum-based performance fabric, but it's ideal for sunbathing or a dip in the pool."

Cameron Diaz in Stella McCartneySo, the impression I'm getting is to keep the Speedo for doing laps or the Slip 'n Slide, and stick to eco fabrics if the most moisture you're going to see is the sweat on your margarita glass.

What about you? Would you be willing to wear a 100% cotton swimsuit (bikini or otherwise) or do you prefer something with a little more oomph and cling when you go swimming? Is it worth the petroleum to keep your girly bits covered where it's intended?

Fashion details:

Barstow Bikini by Loyale (on Gisele) by Jenny Hwa ($120): low-impact dye, 100% organic cotton, NY produced in a factory with strict labor laws, a portion of the proceeds goes to Green Corps, which trains college graduates to run environmental campaigns.

Stella McCartney Organic Bikini in Taupe Stripe (on Cameron) by Stella McCartney ($275): organic cotton, made in Italy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Homemade Body Scrubs

It always amazes me how expensive body scrubs are if you purchase them premade. It's so easy to make your own salt or sugar scrubs and there are a number of free recipes to be found online. If you are looking for a great exfoliator to help keep your skin smooth or prevent ingrown hairs, then look no further than your kitchen cabinet.

For a super simple scrub, grab a handful of either table salt or white sugar and add enough olive oil to make a paste and rub away. Your skin will be instantly smooth and you'll have spent pennies in the process. If you want to get fancy you can add all manner of higher end oils like almond or coconut oil instead of the olive oil. Add in essential oils for fragrance and you'll be competing with those $20 jars of scrubs in no time flat.

Candy cane sugar scrubHere's one of my favorite scrubs that doubles as a great gift to give away during the holidays:

Candy Cane Sugar Scrub

Crushed candy canes are really just sugar right? So, why not add them to a sugar scrub to make a super festive beauty treat?

Ingredients
1 cup granulated white sugar
6 candy canes, finely crushed almost into a powder
1/2 cup sweet almond oil (or olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil (optional - used as a preservative)
1 teaspoon cocoa butter (optional)
6 drops peppermint essential oil

Instructions
Mix all ingredients until well blended. Place into a clean glass jar with a tight lid and add a fancy label. I highly recommend the 1/2 pint wide mouth canning jars and wide mouth plastic storage lids.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SpaRitual Nail Polish - Product Review

SpaRitual Nail ColorI recently had the chance to check out a salon in my neighborhood that offers nail care services using a blend of their own skin care products. Zerene Salon exclusively uses a nail polish called SpaRitual, which is vegan, DBP, formaldehyde and toluene free.

Why avoid these ingredients? Well, for starters, DBP, or dibutyl phthalate, is a plasticizing ingredient that has recently been banned for use in cosmetic products in the European Union. DBP is a potential developmental and reproductive toxin that may cause a broad range of birth defects. Toulene is a toxic volatile organic compound often used as an industrial solvent and formaldehyde is great if you want to preserve yourself. It is used as an embalming agent.

How well does it work? Initially, the nail polish is a little more liquidy than the "standard" polishes and you might find you'll need an additional coat to get the coverage you like. But, as the product ages and gets exposed to the air, it will thicken up. I found it lasts just as long and is as chip resistant too.

I'm pretty excited to see that there are tons of nail polishes on the market that are removing some of the more insiduous or, at the very least, questionable, chemicals from their products. Is it as good as not using nail polish? Well, no, but if you like to have your nails painted, make sure you buy safer products. And, if you get your nails done and they don't carry these types of products, ask them to start stocking them. Or, better yet. Bring your own.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Preventing Ingrown Hairs

If you shave, wax or otherwise remove hair from your body and suffer from bumps, ingrown hairs and the like, it can be extremely annoying. Not to mention painful and very unsightly. There are a number of products on the market that purportedly help prevent or reduce skin irritation and ingrown hairs but they tend to be expensive. They work fairly well but the cost can be prohibitive. If you are African American or have very curly hair, ingrown hairs can be a considerable headache.

I've just started using Whish Flawless Ingrown Hair Serum, but at $22.50 for 1.1 ounces, unless it works miraculously I'm not sure it's a habit I can keep up. Another very popular product is called Tend Skin which is cheaper at $20 for 4 ounces, but many find it to be too harsh.

So, what's a bumpy girl (or boy) to do? Well, I found a recipe for making your own version of Tend Skin, which consists basically of Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, witch hazel, purified water and uncoated aspirin, which are similar to the main ingredients in Tend Skin. It sounds like you can skip the witch hazel and water in the mixture, if you want to keep it simple. The beauty of making it yourself is that if you find the original formula to be too harsh, you can dilute it by reducing the alcohol and/or aspirin and increasing the water.

Anyway, the cost is considerably less to make it yourself so it's definitely worth a try even if it doesn't work out for you. Here's the basic recipe:

5 oz Isopropyl alcohol
15 uncoated aspirin

Add the ingredients to a squeeze bottle and shake to mix. You'll need to shake before use as some settling may occur. Apply with a cotton pad or cloth after shaving or showering or however often is needed. And, remember to exfoliate several times a week and moisturize to help prevent ingrowns.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Perfect Organics Hazelnut Scrub offer

Over at Kaia House Organics, if you purchase $100 worth of goodies you can get a free Perfect Organics Hazelnut Body Scrub ($26 value + free shipping to boot).

According to the press release, this scrub contains organic coffee beans that help shed dead skin cells while revitalizing and energizing the body. Ultra rich plant oils are paired with the invigorating scent of hazelnut, leaving skin feeling soft and looking radiant.

All you need to do is use the code 'hazelnut' at the checkout.

Ingredients:
Organic Oat Bran, Organic Corn Meal, Sea Salt, Organic Almond Meal, Organic Rice Bran, Organic Sugar, Organic Coffee Beans, Organic Wheat Bran, Organic Sweet Almond Oil, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Hazelnut Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Calendula Extract, Organic Chamomile Extract, Organic Marshmallow Root, Organic Hazelnut Extract, Vitamins E and C.

Green Beauty Guide - Book Review

One thing that is gaining quite a bit in popularity among environmentally minded (and cash strapped) Americans is looking for natural alternatives to beauty care products that not only reduce their impact on the environment by using less packaging and less chemicals, but also reduce the impact on their pocketbooks.

In the new book, The Green Beauty Guide: Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances, author Julie Gabriel goes into great detail discussing not only the effects that synthetic products have on your body but she also shares with her readers organic alternatives that are affordable. She details how to spot organic frauds and gimmicks since those are abounding like crazy with everyone jumping on the greenwashing bandwagon.

This book is chock-full of recipes for making your own cleansers, toners, facial scrubs, skin care, shampoos, conditioners, baby care and even sunscreen. Interspersed between the recipes is information on off-the-shelf products which lets you know the inside scoop on not only their ingredients but their effectiveness.

This book is a real keeper if you want some advice to help you wade through the sea of organic beauty care products out there or if you like to dabble in making your own beauty concoctions. Here's one to get you started:

Hand Rescue Cream

1/2 ounce beeswax
Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon
1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
5 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil

1. Melt beeswax in pan. 2. Add lemon juice and oils and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. 3. Transfer to a jar. Shake occasionally until the cream is cooled and uniform.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sustainable Hair Removal

SugaringHere is a question for you: how can I easily and successfully remove body hair without creating a lot of waste or exposing myself to dangerous chemicals? The problem with most recent inventions in hair removal tends to be the fact that they are environmentally unfriendly due to packaging, waste and chemicals.

Depilatories. Well, I'll tell you depilatories isn't the winner in the sustainability category. In spite of their ease of use, they are chock full of chemicals that do heaven knows what to the environment and your own skin (remember that your skin in your largest organ and absorbs this stuff). Add to that the fact that the packaging and propellants in them aren't environmentally friendly either. So, even if you find it effective, I suggest you try to switch to something a little less damaging all around.

Razors. You have a few options if you are shaving with a razor, some better than others. Clearly, disposable razors aren't the way to go. Even if you opt for a disposable head, the heads generally come full of plastic and packaging. If you want to go nuts and find yourself an old fashioned safety razor where all you supply are new razor blades, then by all means, hack yourself to pieces. Other shaving options include a straight razor, although it's difficulty and lack of convenience and acceptability make it less of a decent option for most. If you stick with shaving, go with a replaceable head. I only wish that some of the manufacturers would choose to forego the individual packaging.

Electric Shavers. Electric shavers are more sustainable than disposable razors in theory, but you are still taking a hit on the environmental impact of production, packaging, shipping and electricity to run or charge it (unless you have a solar charger). If you can get a used electric shaver, then you've eliminated at least the manufacturing element.

Laser Hair Removal. I don't consider this all that environmentally friendly given the incredible amount of manufacturing input involved to make the equipment. One could argue that once the device has been manufactured, then it's really only input it energy. But, until laser hair removal is actually something that lasts and isn't so expensive, I wouldn't even consider it. I added it here only because I figured someone would ask about it.

Waxing. Most waxes are petroleum based. If you use store-purchased waxing kits, then you again are dealing with production, packaging and shipping issues as well as the waste created with throwing out the used strips. Salon waxing may provide a better option than home purchased kits since you may be able to find a salon that uses natural waxes, but there is still an issue with disposal due to health concerns. And, primarily, the cost can be an issue.

Sugaring. For those of you who are lucky enough to have tried sugaring or have a salon nearby that provides this service, you will know that sugaring is much more comfortable than waxing in that it adheres only to the hair rather than the skin (like waxing). There are kits you can buy for home use (like Moom), but there is still the issue of production, packaging, distribution and waste.

So, what the answer? What's the most environmentally friendly method of hair removal? Home sugaring.

There are only a few items that are needed and you most likely already have them on hand. All of these items are reusable so you just need to provide a few simple ingredients and a little know-how.

Home Sugaring Kit
  • Tongue depressor (a wooden Popsicle stick or dull knife also works well as a spreading device)
  • Cotton or linen cloth or muslin cut into 1 inch strips
  • Candy thermometer
  • Glass storage container (optional: if you plan on reheating in microwave)

    Sugaring Recipe
    2 cups sugar
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup water

    Combine all the above ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on low (making sure it doesn't boil over). Put the candy thermometer into the saucepan and when the mixture reaches 250 F on the candy thermometer (hardball candy stage), take it off the heat and pour it into the glass container after it's cooled down a bit. You can reheat this mixture in the microwave later if you don't use it all after it is made or if it cools down too much and isn't as spreadable.

    To use: Let the mixture cool down enough so you don't burn yourself. Test it on your wrist. Trust me, you will learn quickly to make sure the temperature is correct. Using your spreading device, spread it on your skin in the direction of the hair growth. Cover with the cloth strips and rip it off against the direction of the hair growth (kind of like pulling off a bandaid). You can also hold the skin taut with the non-ripping hand to aid in making sure all the hairs come out.

    To clean up, just wash the strips in soap and water. You can even throw the strips in the laundry for reuse again. I like to hand wash and air dry the strips.

    I highly recommend showering after sugaring to make sure you remove all of the mixture since bacteria love to breed in sugar.

    Voilà! Enjoy your silky smooth skin using only a little sugar and lemon!
  • Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Homemade Clay Mask

    Clay mask ingredientsPeople have used clay masks for thousands of years to help clear pores, slough off the dead outer layer of skin and soothe and calm inflammation. It's really very simple to make at home and you can get the clay at a natural foods store.

    In this recipe, the lactic acid in the milk (alpha hydroxy acid) helps slough off dead skin cells, the clay helps to clear out your pores and the honey helps to soothe.

    3 - 4 tablespoons whole milk
    2 tablespoons clay (Green or French Clay and White Kaolin are good choices)
    1 teaspoon honey
    4 drops essential oils (optional)

    Clay and aspirin maskMix the ingredients together adding more milk or water if the mask is too dry. Apply evenly to face (and neck if you want) avoiding the eye area. Leave on for 15 minutes or until dry and rinse off with warm water. I usually wash my face following a mask just to ensure that I've removed all of it.

    Now, my favorite facial mask is an aspirin scrub that I use in conjunction with a clay mask. This works well only if you have oily skin that is not sensitive. Essentially, the salicylic acid in the aspirin works like any commercial product in helping clear out your pores.

    What I end up doing is dissolving about 3 uncoated aspirins in a very small amount of water and mixing it into the clay mask. It acts as a scrub when you put on the mask. Leave it on for the same amount of time and there you have it! Clear skin.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    About Green Goddess Dressing

    Circa 1986I started out a whole lot more fashion minded. I modeled during high school and for a few years afterwards. But somewhere along the way, between 8 years of University study, working as a software developer and having two kids, I stepped out of the world of fashion and into the world of environmentalism.

    This blog was created to get me back to my fashion roots, share some of my fashion and beauty advice and generally to have fun! Since my background is in writing about issues of the environment and sustainability, the main focus will be on sustainable beauty products and green fashion. That's not to say that I won't occasionally branch out and discuss or mention some non-green fashion piece that catches my eye, but I'll be sticking to clothes and products made with environmentally friendly materials or using more sustainable production methods.

    Circa 1989More importantly, I will only be covering fashion stories that I find fashionable. There are quite a few items out there that are sustainably made but are, quite frankly, ugly, and no fashion-minded individual worth their salt would consider wearing them no matter how eco-conscious they are. So, they'll be little mention of crudely designed, unflattering items unless, of course, I feel like calling them out as something to avoid.

    As for beauty products, I'll generally only discuss items that I've used and recommend or, at the very least, appear to me as an item of interest. And, when I haven't used it, I'll let you know. The same story goes with product reviews - if I don't like something, I'll let you know about it.

    If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email!