Alba Botanica Lip Balm – Review

I bought this lip balm because it is made by Alba and isn’t petroleum-based, AND it was on sale at CVS!  In terms of lip balm, my current fave has been Burt’s Bees.  But since this was on sale, I decided to give the Alba Botanica Lip Balm a shot.

I am IMPRESSED!  It’s extremely moisturizing, and what I love is that it is a bit glossy.  It is extremely hydrating, it doesn’t just sit on top of your lips.  I bought two different scents, Passion Fruit Nectar and Coconut Cream.  Yumm-o.

The texture once it’s on your lips is fantastic.  The only slight downside is this… you know how some things can have an aftertaste?  Well, I thought the Coconut Cream has a slight ‘after-smell’ if there is such a thing.  It initially smells like creamy coconut, but if you squinch your lips up to your nose to see how it smells, it has an un-coconut after-smell.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  But since I don’t walk around all day with my lips squinched up to my nose, it certainly isn’t a turn-off.  In fact, I think this my new favorite lip balm.

I should also mention that the Passion Fruit made me feel all nostalgic – it smells like one of the Bonnie Bell lip balms I had as a kid. *smile*  Next time I need a refill on this, I’m probably going to try the Pineapple Quench as well.  Mmmm.

I sure am thankful for the CVS sale because I probably wouldn’t have had a reason to try this!  But I am most definitely glad that I did.  This one was not a bust.  🙂

Hair color – Is there a safe product out there?

I admit, I am guilty of coloring my hair. I know I should just take a break from it for now because we all know a time will come when I have to color it (to cover the grey…sigh). But I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. Inquiring minds want to know….is there a safer alternative to the toxic chemicals we are used to?

There is , well – there are, actually. More than one company offers professional hair color products that are safer not only for us (the clients) but for the salon staff as well. The two I have come across and have personally tried are Essensity (by Schwarzkopf) and Organic Color Systems (by Organic Salon Systems). Both of these products are free of ammonia, formaldehyde, and parabens. Both products claim to provide 100% grey coverage, offer a full range of color options, and do not fade.

Now to be honest, I’m a recreational hair color girl – I’m not trying to cover greys or drastically change my natural hair color, so I can’t review those aspects of the products. But I will tell you that both of them worked well for me. The color was nice, natural, shiny, and lasted as long as any other professional hair color I’ve tried.

If you are interested in trying one of these products, you can find an Essensity salon near you by clicking here or an Organic Color Systems salon by clicking here. If you happen to live around Chicago, you should check out Salon Rhapsody in Frankfort, IL. My friend Heather is the owner and she offers both Essensity and Organic Color Systems lines and she is great with color.

While I was researching this topic, I came across a couple other notable pieces of information. One is that Organic Color Systems offers a non-bleach lightening system. So if you’re blonde, you might want to check that out. Also, Organic Color Systems has an interesting article on its site that’s worth reading: Top 6 Myths and Facts about Professional Salon Products and Cosmetics. And, an all-natural hair coloring option I read about is Henna. I have never tried it myself but you can click here for a link to some Henna hair color products on Amazon. I’ve not come across any professional hair color products that are Henna based but if you are interested, definitely look into it. They might be out there. On the other hand, if you are willing to take your chances and try coloring your own hair, here is a link to Skin Deep’s ratings for hair coloring and bleaching products.

Good luck and please share if you have had any experience using less toxic hair coloring products! We’d love to hear about it!

Bragg Organic Vinaigrette – Review

After reading over and over about the concerns over PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fatty acids), we were kind of on a mission to find a salad dressing that didn’t use vegetable oils (canola oil, soybean oil, etc.).  Do you know how hard it is to find a salad dressing without canola/soybean/vegetable oil?!  It’s nearly impossible!  For a while, we were just making our own dressing with olive oil, raw vinegar, salt, pepper, and spices.  It worked just fine, but it’s not always convenient to make.

About a year or so ago, I found this Bragg Organic Vinaigrette.  Rather being vegetable oil-based, the base of this is organic olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar.  It’s basically what we were making but without the hassle.

There is no added salt to this dressing, so if you just pour it on, you will realize something is missing!  I always do a few shakes of sea salt when I’m using this dressing.  It’s no creamy ranch if that’s what you’re used to, but with the added sea salt, it makes a pretty good dressing.  Even my husband puts it back on the grocery list when we run out.

We’ve also tried their Bragg Ginger and Sesame Dressing.  To be honest, it tastes very similar to the Vinaigrette.  So if you’re looking for Asian-inspired flavors, the Ginger and Sesame is a bit disappointing.  We just continue to buy the Vinaigrette.  By the way, I get this at my Super Target!

One thing to note with this dressing is that it does NOT go in the refrigerator.  You won’t hurt it, but the olive oil will harden and it will be unusable until it comes back to room temp.  So just store it in your pantry!  It says so on the label!

The Bragg website is very interesting/informative.  The Braggs are kind of pioneers in the health field.  Jack LaLanne started his health journey after attending a Bragg lecture before he became famous.  Their site is a bit quirky but interesting to check out.  They offer many other products, too!

100% Pure Nourishing Body Cream – Review

I picked up this 100% Pure Nourishing Body Cream on a trip to Ulta.  This body cream advertises, “Truly, 100% Pure – never any artificial fragrances, synthetic chemicals, toxic preservatives, or any other unsafe ingredients. Made only with the highest quality, organic nutrients for your skin.”  Sweet!

I bought the Vanilla Bean scent, Ulta didn’t have a ton of options.  However, apparently this lotion comes in lots and lots of scents!  If you go to the company’s website, you can check out all they offer including Strawberry Lemonade, Cabernet Grape, and Cocoa Kona Coffee among many others.

This lotion is really moisturizing.  I thought the one funny thing is that when you rub it in, I think you can actually feel the aloe in it.  You know how it feels to rub aloe into your skin?  Even though this is creamy, it has the same feeling as aloe as it disappears into your skin.  Overall I think the texture is really nice.

The scent of the one I tried is vanilla, plain and simple.  Nothing fancy or riveting about it.  I guess the options may be pretty limited when it comes to fragrance when creating a product that is 100% natural and organic!

I liked the texture of this lotion enough to see what other fragrances are available.  I wish Ulta had more to smell!  I’m used to all the complex notes of conventional lotions on the market today, so from a scent perspective, this left me wanting a bit more.  But I would try it again in a different scent because I really liked the lotion itself.  If you’re a purist, you may love the Vanilla Bean.  🙂

Artisana Organic Raw Coconut Butter – Review

We’ve been using coconut oil in our house for quite a while, that when I starting running across recipes recently calling for ‘Coconut Butter,’ I was surprised I’ve never heard of it.  Is it the same thing as coconut oil?  Is it a spreadable coconut-based butter alternative?  I didn’t know!!

After a little digging, I found out that it is neither of the above.  It is just coconut meat (aka the white part) ground into a butter.  (The same way that peanuts are ground into peanut butter, for instance).  Coconut butter.  Okay!  Now it makes sense!

In one of the recipes I was looking at, a few people were talking about how good coconut butter is, that it tastes like shortbread.  I thought, Now this I gotta try!

Normally for specialty items like this, I shop on Amazon, because it is almost always cheaper than at a specialty grocery store (like Whole Foods).  But when I get something in my mind, I’m not a very patient person.  I didn’t want to wait for it to be shipped to my house, so I grabbed some from Whole Foods!

I didn’t even know where to find it, so I asked the (very helpful) guy at Whole Foods.  He brought me over to the peanut/almond/nut butter section, and this Artisana Organic Raw Coconut Butter was right there.  He said, “Now it’s a little expensive, but it’s soooo good.”

I had been looking at this on Amazon, and it actually was the same price at Whole Foods, so I was thrilled that I didn’t pay extra so I could try it right away.  🙂

It’s hard at room temp like coconut oil, which I totally expected.  I got a knife and scraped some off the top to taste and was like, “Did I buy the wrong thing?  This tastes exactly like coconut oil!”  Then I read the side of the jar that said it may separate, so just warm it so you can stir it.  I was eating the separated coconut oil on top.  🙂

So I took a clean spoon to get under the layer of coconut oil, to the actual coconut butter.  WOWZERS!  It is soooo good!  I think those people are totally right, it does taste like shortbread!  I don’t know how, because it’s just organic, raw, ground coconut meat – no added anything like salt or sugar.  But I think it is so delicious!

Now I need to warm it and stir it so it’s not separated anymore.  On the side, it says you can add it to fruit smoothies, homemade energy bars, as a butter replacement, in sauces, or right out of the jar.  🙂  I’m thinking this would be awesome spread on a piece of sprouted-grain bread with some cinnamon.  I also came across a recipe for homemade granola bars, and I think this would be fabulous in those.

Now I’m putting a disclaimer:  I had my husband try it because I was so excited about it, and I think I talked it up too much because his reaction was, “Yeah, it’s not bad.  Tastes kind of like coconuts.”  Men.  🙂  I think because I was expecting ‘shortbread,’ that’s what it tastes like to me.  How could he not think that, too?!?!

I would love to know if you try this (even another brand of coconut butter) and what uses you find for it!  Coconut is so good for you.

A quick sidenote, and then I’m done – Artisana also makes a Cacao Bliss verson of their coconut butter.  A chocolate version of this?!  I’m in!

Here is Artisana’s website if you want to browse what else they offer, plus recipes for their products!

Spry Tooth Gel and Baby Banana Toothbrush – Review

As my 1-year-old’s teeth are starting to push through his little gums, I purchased the Spry Tooth Gel and Baby Banana Toothbrush combo from Whole Foods.

The gel is made of all natural xylitol, which is a sweetener found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, as well as in oats and even hardwood. I know what you’re thinking…why would you want to brush your child’s teeth with a sweetener?? How could this at all be beneficial?? I’ve learned it actually was first introduced in Europe as a safe sweetener for those with diabetes, as it doesn’t affect one’s insulin levels. Additionally, xylitol has found over and over again in clinical studies to have dental benefits. Who knew?? In layman’s terms, apparently, bacteria cannot stick to teeth in a xylitol-rich environment due to its chemical structure. On the manufacturer’s website for the product, it states it may also promote optimal calcium absorption and the development of tooth enamel.

So not only is the gel safe to swallow (safe for babies three months and up), fluoride-free and shown to promote a healthy environment for developing teeth, this particular tube is naturally flavored with strawberry and banana…a winning combo for me and my son! My only complaint would be that it may be too tasty, haha, as he seems to slurp up the gel before I can get it onto his little teeth!

I should also mention the fun baby banana brush – made entirely of 100% high-quality silicon, including the soft bristles. It fits perfectly in my little man’s hands, and he loves chewing on it. Seriously, he gets a big smile when he sees I’m going to brush his little pearly whites.

Another interesting tidbit – the manufacturer of Spry, Xlear, also makes other xylitol products, including gum, candy, mints, and even jams!

Gud Shampoo and Conditioner by Burt’s Bees – Review

I’ve been wanting to try a more natural shampoo and conditioner for a while now. I’ve historically just used something that got the job done…nothing special and definitely not natural. While scanning the aisle, my eye caught the new gud line from Burt’s Bees. The products contain no parabens, phthalates or petrochemicals. I decided to give the Nourishing Shampoo and Softening Conditioner in Vanilla Flame a try.

Since this was my first time trying a natural shampoo and conditioner, I wasn’t really sure what to expect or even how it compares to other natural products. My first impression was that the shampoo was really thin, and conversely, the conditioner really thick. I have thinner, kind of dry/frizzy hair (I know, great combination, right?), so finding the right conditioner is really important in that it doesn’t weigh my hair down, yet conditions enough to smooth the frizz.

After a couple weeks of using these gud products, I would definitely buy them again. The shampoo gets a good lather, which I like. And although the conditioner is pretty thick, it doesn’t seem to weigh my hair down.

I will say I’m not totally a fan of the fragrance. I thought it smelled fantastic in the bottle at the store. However, maybe mixed with my wet hair, it reminded me a bit of suntan lotion. 🙁 I asked my husband what he thought (who I think has a heightened sense of smell, haha), and he thought it was nice. He did say he thought he smelled a tinge of coconut (hence the suntan lotion smell I was probably getting). The scent does last throughout the day, which I like…I’ll just choose another scent next time. 🙂 The shampoo and conditioner are also available in Floral Cherrynova and Orange Petalooza scents.

Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant – Review

I have finally found an awesome aluminum free deodorant, Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant.

I have to give a good friend of mine credit for telling me about this deodorant.  She said that even after sweating on the elliptical she still smelled the deodorant.  Yeah!!  I cannot say this about the countless aluminum free products I have tried in the past (Jason, Toms of Maine, Crystal Essence and many others I cannot remember).  My husband made the switch from “antiperspirant,” which all contain aluminum, to deodorant a long time ago and very easily.  I even had stints of trying his deodorants, as there seems to be more choices for men in their lines of product.  Nothing compared to my Dove.  I just could not break away from it, even as important as this health piece was to me.  I told myself I would just keep searching and asking people what they used.

I felt stinky by late in the day with the others I had tried.  I have to tell you though, this Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant is Great!  I still smell like deodorant 24 hours later, yes, the next morning.  This was never the case with the others and I am not a sweater.  It was just not a clean smell.  I could stand it but wanted to bath before going to bed.  I got the fresh scent and it smells so good.  It is a nice clean smell.  It is a little sporty-like but I would say just more of a fresh (like they have named it) and clean smell that actually lasts! It also comes in an unscented version.

I luckily have a Whole Foods near by but have never seen this product there.  My friend that tipped me off actually got it at Kroger.  I was able to find it at my local Kroger, too.  Over the last few years, I always get a bottle for my mom to try.  She is a hard critic on deodorant and she even agreed, this one is nothing like the others.  It really is awesome!

Now, it is winter time here in Indiana, even if it has been unseasonably warm for us this year.  I do know the real test will be in the summer months for me.  So I will report back on this product once I see how it works on a hot summer day.  I think it will be fine though, based on lasting a 7 mile elliptical work out by my friend.  If you have tried this product and came out of the day or workout still smelling girlie and fresh, please let me know!  Also, if you have another great product find please share!  I love to rotate deodorants too.  For now it will be between their fresh and unscented versions.

I am so excited to have found this deodorant!

Edited to add: While this deodorant does not contain aluminum or parabens, it does contain Triclosan.

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil – Review

Tropical Traditions is a company that I regularly order from personally, and every time I’m on their site, I see information on their ‘Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil.’  We use coconut oil at home regularly, so I was really excited when I found out Tropical Traditions was going to send me a jar of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to try!

I have tried lots of different coconut oils over the past couple of years, and they have all been very similar.  I was really anxious to see whether this coconut oil was going to be any different.  It is ‘Gold Label’ after all.  😉

I think the first thing I used it for was to saute something for dinner.  My first thought was, “Wow, this is really creamy!”  Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so depending on the weather/time of year, I’m familiar with its hard-but-not-crumbly texture.  But this Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil immediately looked and felt differently from the first scoop out of the jar.  It is still solid obviously, but the texture is a lot creamier than the coconut oils I am used to.  It is very silky and velvety!

But the biggest difference to me is the flavor.  We all know how good coconut is said to be for us, so I like to incorporate it into our meals and snacks when I can.  But sometimes the overt flavor of coconut starts to be a turn off!  Everything starts tasting the same… baked goods, sauteed veggies, stove-top popcorn, smoothies… sometimes you just don’t want everything to taste like coconut!

And for this reason, I love the Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil.  It definitely still has the flavor and aroma of coconut, but to me anyways, it is so much more subtle.  It blends so much better with savory dishes than the coconut oil I’m used to.  Usually when I use coconut oil in cooking (veggies, say), my husband is like, “Did you use coconut oil on these?”  Like he wishes I hadn’t.  🙂  But not with the Gold Label.  I found myself using it in so many more things because it didn’t make every. single. thing taste like coconut.  I realized between my jar of Gold Label and the other jar of coconut oil I had on hand, I was using the Gold Label about 90% of the time.  The only time I was using my other jar was when I was making something sweet (I think we made dark chocolate covered frozen bananas) and I didn’t want to waste my Gold Label Coconut Oil!!

 

I am so thankful I had the chance to try out this awesome coconut oil!  Tropical Traditions runs sales on this oil, so I will definitely be on the lookout when I need more.

Ambre Blends – Review

I absolutely love this fragrance oil! My sister-in-law introduced me to this product line and all the scents smell awesome.  I have the 10ml Essence and the 2oz. Spritzer of the Ambre Essence and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this stuff.  I promise people will ask you what you are wearing.

I was told you put it at the crease of your arm and rub it in with your wrists. The idea is that it works with your body heat and chemistry.  So it smells different on everyone.  Though I will tell you that it seems to have the same super clean and fresh smell on the people I know that wear it.  The Ambre Essence scent is my favorite! You want to just keep smelling your arm.  It is AMAZING!

The other great things I love about these oils is that they are made with 100% pure and organic ingredients, hand-made, worn by both men and women and created and owned by a local Indianapolis woman.  So cool!

To learn more about the making of this company and product, visit their website.  You will also see they offer three other scents, body creams, soap, candles and lip balm.  This product is distributed nationally at spas, salons and specialty boutiques.  To find a retailer in your area you can use the store locator on their site.