Shampoo Wishes And Conditioner Dreams

5884058333_4009fe0d4a_zWhen my holy grail fragrance free shampoo and conditioner was phased out in a rebranding, I was super bummed.  It can be a challenge to find gluten free, vegan products, especially in fragrance free forms that cater to dry skin and curly hair.  And I lost more than a shampoo and conditioner – my basic bath products must be multi-functional.

I guess I’m pretty demanding.  I need my conditioner to function as a rinse-out, leave-in, styling product, and shave cream.  It has to work for a good, soothing scalp scrub on no-poo days.  I like my shampoo to double as a body wash.  And, in case it’s not obvious, the ingredients must be very clean.  Pony and cupcake optional.

3711NDEDesert Essence Organics Fragrance Free Shampoo:  This works well for my once or twice a week shampoo habit, and as my daily body wash.  Desert Essence actually makes a separate body wash, which is fine, but the ingredients are nearly identical, and I prefer the extra moisture that comes with a shampoo.  This product could lean more toward moisturizing than it does, but since I don’t shampoo often I’m happy with it.  It lathers more than many natural shampoos.  It’s a solid performer, and, I think, would please those with normal or oily hair as well.

3712NDEDesert Essence Fragrance Free Conditioner:  The shampoo meets my basic needs, but the conditioner is definitely a holy grail product!  I’m not sure why the company doesn’t have it in the organic line packaging, as it does have several organic ingredients.  It’s very thick and moisturizing – the perfect curly girl conditioner.  It’s awesome for a scalp scrub, and makes me feel clean and fresh without the need for a daily shampoo.  It leaves my hair very soft, and makes  a great shave cream.  It’s perfect on days I use henna, to rinse out the last bit of graininess.  On its own it’s a nice moisturizing leave-in and a great styling product.  I also love to mix it with other styling products to get the consistency and performance I want on any given day.  A pump of this makes my Rahua Hair Wax and John Masters Shine On even more versatile.  A great trick to add extra moisture (and scent if you like) is to mix it with a few drops of your favorite oil.  A bit of May Lindstrom’s The Good Stuff makes this heavenly on days I want scent.

It makes me so happy to find these basic products in a fragrance free version.  An extra bonus is that they are quite inexpensive.  At $8.99/8oz, and add on that it’s not hard to find them on sale, it’s a good bulk purchase.  The upside down squeeze bottle packaging is utilitarian, so I bought glass pump bottles to dispense the products.  Much more convenient, and prettier.

What are your fragrance free favorites?

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Water Based Moisturizers

IMG_0518I’m the president of the fan club of face oils.  Since they are best applied on moist skin, my obsession for them matches well with my obsession for hydrosols.  But last winter I started needing some additional help with my dry skin, especially right around my lips.  Just like your lipstick rubs off in the course of the day, any product you’ve applied around the lip area can wear thin.  A sip of kombucha here, a mid-morning snack there, and even before lunch I’m unpleasantly dry.

I went searching for something I could dab on those especially dry spots throughout the day as needed, something quick and easy to apply that would sink right in.

These moisturizers all have a water and/or aloe base blended with very light oils, antioxidants, vitamins, various botanicals, etc.  They sink in fairly quickly, and work well applied alone, layered with an oil, or my favorite – mixed with a drop or two of oil first, then applied.  The method will all depend on your skin type and the season, of course.  Adjust as needed.

Blissoma Pure:  This “sensitive skin soothing complex” is my favorite.  It seems so quiet and unassuming with it’s simple name and unscented nature.  But the performance is impressive.  It’s got the perfect thick-but-not-too-thick texture, and is the best product I’ve tried for calming after hair removal.  Just a simple tweeze of the eyebrows can set my skin to complaining, never mind that darn upper lip area, and applying Pure lets me go on about my business without inflammation.  It mixes well with any oil for extra hydration, and won’t compete with other scents.  On its own, or mixed with an oil or balm, it is the best for moisturizing my extra dry spots.  I like the simple packaging – a glass bottle with a nice pump that lets you easily use just a bit if you don’t need a full pump.  ($25.99/oz)

Graydon:   This Canadian brand makes two of my honorable mention moisturizers.  The Putty is light in texture and lightly scented.  For this texture, it is remarkably moisturizing and reparative.  I recommend it if you want a light texture with a powerful anti-inflammatory punch, and enjoy just a suggestion of scent – from carrot seed, chamomile, and lavender EOs.  The Berry Rich Cream is more substantial in texture, but still doesn’t feel too heavy on the skin.  With no intentionally added scent, it gives one just a hint of berry from the blueberry and red raspberry seed oils. (each $29/1.7oz or 50ml)

Osmia Purely Simple Face Cream:  I’m not one for herbal generally, but this is nice – light and refreshing.  The texture is too light for my mature skin, but would be a great choice for normal to oily types, or those with issues of perioral dermatitis. ($60/1.7oz)

Have you tried these?  What’s your favorite water-based moisturizer?


The New Highlighters In Town

IMG_3248I’m a big fan of the highlighter/illuminator category of cosmetics, as you may have noticed way back in this post.  Both of these new kids are from well known clean beauty brands and are gluten free.  One is vegan.  They are quite different from one another, and different from any other highlighter I’ve tried as well.  I think they will both work on a variety of skin tones, though to different effect.

One of my favorite uses for a highlighter is to press it gently into my un-mascaraed lashes and all around the eyes, close to the lash line.  On its own it makes me feel polished and standard workday appropriate, adding brightness to the eyes and making me look awake, even when that’s barely true.


KW on top, LBF on the bottom (both applied very heavy so they show up for the pic!)

Kjaer Weis Radiance:  This is my first Kjaer Weis product.  I’ve been wanting to try the brand for a long time (I drool for the packaging alone), but the presence of carmine in the cheek and lip colors held me back.  The highlighter does have beeswax, but is otherwise vegan.  When I heard that there was a new highlighter on the market with a little lavender to it, I knew I had to have it.  Radiance is very creamy and feels nice on the skin, and that pearly beige and lavender undertone is really unique.  It is the most shimmery highlighter I own, and that makes it more of an evening or special day treat for me.  But it is gorgeous and a worthwhile purchase.  ($56)

La Bella Figura Brazilian Denise:  This is part of LBF’s new “more than makeup” line, and is versatile addition to a brand I already love.  It is more gold than the other highlighters I’ve tried, so if you desire that warm honey look, I highly recommend it.  It also stays on the best of any highlighter I’ve used, with its drier texture, and remained nearly unchanged at the end of the day.  It does have what I would consider a strong scent, from the flower wax that keeps it vegan, so be aware of that if you are sensitive.  Keep in mind, I’m practically the scent police – most people probably wouldn’t think much of it.  ($38)

Have you tried these?  How do you use a highlighter?

IMG_3179This is going to be a great makeup season for me, and all you lovelies that dig on orange and purple.  Even if you don’t think they are for you, give something a shot.  Two of my fave super clean companies are at the forefront of this color extravaganza.

These are not the drugstore makeup colors of my 70s childhood.  They are fresh and hip, and will make you feel that way, too.

top to bottom: Curious, Royal, Perfect Day, Around the World

top to bottom: Curious, Royal, Perfect Day, Around the World

RMS Beauty:  The “wearable brights” are now available from their website, but I was so intrigued I nabbed them up in the preview launch on net-a-porter.  Curious (lip2cheek) is a very buildable orange, so you can go subtle or all out as desired.  It has a very slight shimmer to it, but wears like a semi-matte when applied lightly.  The lip2cheek designation is a true one for me.  It is a fresh alternative to pink.  Royal (lip shine) is a purple with a pink base, maybe not quite as much shine as some of the other lip shine shades (a good thing in my book).  It has more shimmer than I was expecting or desired, but I still think I can carry it off.  If you like shimmer, this is the one to go for.  I can see this as a good one to layer on top of your other favorite lip colors.

Ilia Beauty:  Ilia lipsticks are buildable and have my favorite semi-matte finish.  These colors are less obvious versions of orange and purple on me – more of a suggestion, really.  Perfect Day is advertised as a toned down coral red, but I feel its orangey tones.  This is a great one if you don’t want take the full orange leap (if you do, try Ilia’s Voila).  I actually had to rescue it from my pretty-but-not-me bag that I take to parties to share with friends.  On a blah day I dug it out and added it to my small collection of colors that travelled with me on a recent trip.  When I got up at 3am to make a 6am flight, I blearily dabbed on some Perfect Day, and it brightened my attitude.  Around The World (exclusive to net-a-porter) is described as rose with a bold lavender undertone.  For me, it works as a more summery version of Ink Pot, a personal favorite (and the one to try if you are going full purple jacket).

These colors are taking me seamlessly from summer into fall.  Will you be working orange and purple into your transition?


Body Piercing: The Clean Beauty Way


Piercing can and should be a very safe, clean way to enhance your body.  For far more detail than I can cover here, check out Elayne Angel’s The Piercing Bible.  It is a fun read, and is packed with helpful information on the history of piercing, recognizing a quality studio, aftercare alternatives, troubleshooting, details regarding specific types of piercings – everything you need to know and more.  I particularly like the piercee’s bill of rights (also find it here).  There’s no need to be uninformed or intimidated when getting a piercing.

I’m going to tell you a bit about my own range of experiences with piercing, and give you my best advice for healing without toxic and irritating chemicals, or risking potentially dangerous infection.  Whether you want a simple lobe piercing or something more bold, it’s worth knowing the ropes.

Clean beauty and piercing go together rather naturally for me these days.  It wasn’t always so.  When I received my first basic lobe piercings over 30 years ago, I was told to clean the piercings daily with alcohol, whilst twisting the jewelry in its hole.  This seriously makes me shudder now, and it’s no wonder I had trouble on and off with those piercings for decades.  In those days, if you wanted a piercing your options were limited.  Like me, you probably went to your local mall and an essentially unskilled salesperson used a piercing gun to shove a cheap piece of jewelry through your earlobes.  And then you were given that aforementioned bad advice on how to “care” for your piercings.  In college, I made the adventurous choice (for Michigan in the mid-1980s) to get a cartilage piercing in my ear.  It was still the gun method.  Ouch.  My senior year in college, I wanted my nose pierced, and I knew of nowhere to get it done.  The concept of the piercing studio did exist then, on the west coast, but I’d never heard of it.  So my nursing student friend helped me (a biology student) do it – at least we knew something about sterilization.  Please understand, I am in no way advocating for do-it-yourself piercing, but I will say my nose piercings healed better than anything I’ve had done with a gun.

These days, of course, one can find a piercing studio in any decent sized city, and that’s exactly what you should do if you want a piercing.  DON’T go to the mall, and certainly DON’T DIY.

My first studio piercing was in my navel, after I’d moved to California and learned such places existed.  This was in the early 1990s, and the aftercare advice was better but still involved some intentional wiggling of the jewelry.  In the last several years, I’ve had many wonderful piercing experiences at studios, and learned good aftercare techniques from talented and skilled piercers.  At 19 total piercings, I think I’ve learned enough to pay it forward.  Remember, you are putting a wound in your body that will need to heal.  This is deserving of some serious thought and effort.

Piercing 101:

1.  Choose a reputable studio with gold standard safety conditions.  If you do your research and choose wisely, the rest of the pieces of the piercing puzzle should fall together easily.  There should be an autoclave (sterilizer) on the premises, gloves and sharps (needle disposal) containers within easy reach of your piercer, etc.  Check out The Piercing Bible for more detail.  The studio’s webpage should have the essential info, and you can ask them for more information about their safety standards.  If they don’t want to answer your questions, don’t get pierced there.  Likewise, if they are willing to break rules like doing underage piercing, don’t get pierced there.  Online reviews may prove insightful as well.

2.  Choose a skilled, professional piercer whose asthetic you appreciate.  If you chose your studio well, you are likely to get a good piercer.  But everyone has a different style, and you should be able to check out a portfolio online.  After many years between piercings, I asked a student of mine with many well-placed and beautifully healed facial piercings for advice.  She steered me to Lysa Taylor, a lovely gal and excellent professional at Industrial Tattoo and Piercing in Berkeley, CA.  I’ve been through several piercings and jewelry changes with Lysa, and I highly recommend her if you are in the Bay Area.  My favorite piercer in Vancouver, BC, Canada is the badass teddy bear Rick Gilmour*, owner of Adorned Precision Body Arts.  You will walk out of Adorned feeling informed and beautiful.

my double tragus (left) is brand new from Rick at Adorned

my double tragus (left) is brand new from Rick at Adorned

3.  Choose quality jewelry appropriate for your piercing.  If you choose a good studio and piercer you will likely end up with proper jewelry.  I just really can’t emphasize the jewelry point enough, though.  Initial piercings are generally done with surgical steel or titanium and all parts of the jewelry should be very smooth, even microscopically.  Internally threaded or press-in ends are both good choices, and sometimes a captive bead ring, depending on your piercing.  If you can’t afford good jewelry at a reputable studio, do not get pierced.  Save up your money and do it right, with no regrets.  With some of my old gun piercings, putting in a quality piece of jewelry and leaving it the heck alone was all that was necessary to put an end to years of issues.  Expect to eventually purchase a shorter post or smaller ring – initial jewelry must accommodate swelling.  Your piercer will tell you when you’ll need to downsize.

4.  Use best practices in aftercare.  There are slight variations on what that means, and if you’ve picked your studio and piercer wisely, listen to what they tell you.  If you are a novice piercee, they should talk you through aftercare.  You’ll be sent home with a pamphlet and/or access instructions on their website.   The one conflict I’ve experienced with my two fave studios is the use of sea salt (or not).  I’ve done just fine using sea salt soaks/sprays, though it’s not my top choice (see below).  Basically, keep harsh or scented products away from your piercing and don’t touch it except while caring for it, and then only with clean hands.  Make sure all clothing and bed linens are clean and not irritating your piercing.  To avoid pressure on my ear piercings, I like to sleep on a curved travel pillow, with my ear resting in the empty spot where the neck would typically be.  Note that genital and oral piercings will have their own set of aftercare instructions, but the following covers most piercings.  Different piercing locations have different healing times.  Your piercer will tell you how long you need to keep it up.  There are no short cuts.  If you don’t heal properly it will only take longer.

  • Once a day, and best in the shower, lather some unscented Dr. Bronner’s (or similar) in your hands.  Gently lather both sides of the piercing site to remove any secretions, and rinse well.  Don’t move the jewelry.  If you move the jewelry before it’s darn good and ready (that is, well on its way to healing), you are probably ripping off the brand new layers of cells that were healing the site.  Then you are just starting all over again.  Remember, you are not trying to get the soap inside the piercing, just keep the outside area clean.
  • Once out of the shower, spray a good rinsing product and pat the excess dry with a paper towel (keep reusable towels away from fresh piercings, they can harbor bacteria).  My favorite rinse is SimpleCare, which is soothing, anti-inflammatory, and easy to spray on.  Saline solution works too.  Salt water or tea soaks are often recommended, but I find the spray more practical.
  • Soak chamomile** teabags in hot water (as hot as you can take but not too hot).  Squeeze out the excess liquid and hold the bag, gently, against the piercing.  This step makes a huge difference and really relieves pain from inflammation.  As healing begins, the piercing may become crazy itchy, and the tea relieves this as well.  I hold the bag on until it cools, and do a few cycles of this each night.  Keep some tea around even after you think you don’t need it.  If you should accidentally bump or injure the piercing, this will help.
  • For the first few days after a new piercing, and especially with cartilage piercings, I’ll take a couple of Aleve (or your anti-inflammatory of choice).  This is not essential, and I’m not a fan of overmedicating, but do what you need to to feel comfortable.

If you strictly follow the steps of clean and natural aftercare, you should have little to no trouble with your new piercing.  If you do have a problem, see your piercer.

Do you have a positive, or perhaps instructive, piercing story?  Any recommendations for studios or piercers in your area?

*Rick was actually my inspiration to write a post about piercing.  He is a consummate professional and a strong advocate for natural aftercare.

**Make sure it’s just straight chamomile tea with no fillers, preferrably organic.  Traditional Medicinals makes my fave.

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