Product Review: Laurel Whole Plant Organics

One of my favorite things about the green beauty world as I’ve experienced it is the camaraderie that you feel when you hear the story of how a brand was founded and it aligns closely with your own story of switching to natural products. This is what initially drew me to Laurel Whole Plant Organics (formerly Sequoia Beauty): Laurel, the line’s crafter, started her clean journey when a series of health issues arose. Nothing except natural medicine helped, which inspired her to go back to school to study herbs—and Laurel Whole Plant Organics was born, touting the belief that flower and herb-based skincare from biodynamic, raw, unrefined whole plant ingredients is the secret to glowing, healthy skin.

My story starts similarly, with digestive and lymphatic systems issues that no doctors could solve. So, I took matters into my own hands with lots of research, lots of label reading and lots of annoying soliloquies to friends, family, strangers and anyone within earshot.

Because our paths feel parallel, I had an affinity for Laurel and her line before I got a chance to try it. Then I got my hands on it and it was love at first sight and sniff. That’s why I’m so happy to help welcome Laurel WPO to the A Night For Green Beauty brand lineup! Now, onto the review…

I got to try a number of things from the line, but I want to regale you with my top three favorites, the ones I’ve been using religiously and the ones I’m already scared to run out of:

  1. Facial Elixir for Normal/Mature Skin—This hydrosol contains amazing, hydrating, soothing ingredients that my skin can’t get enough of. My favorite part of the blend is the helichrysum hydrosol, which my skin has been craving lately (it’s in my current face wash too, but more on that later). Helichrysum is a known anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, antiseptic and more. It’s great for healing scars, open wounds and sensitivities. Pair that with powerhouses like rose, calendula, frankincense and licorice and you’ve got a must-have elixir.
  2. Facial Mask: Brighten—I’m having a really hard time not just raving about all these products. This mask is incredible. It’s really gentle on my sensitive skin and I can see it working to repair my scars and dark spots. It has a distinct carrot smell that I find really invigorating in the morning, and it doesn’t contain any clays, which can be drying and stressful to my skin when overused. Comfrey, calendula and gotu kola boost aging skin and provide a glow.
  3. Healing Balm for Face and Body—If every skincare line has a holy-grail product, this is Laurel WPO’s. This balm is magic in a jar. It heals cuts, scrapes, blemishes, bug bites, eczema, dermatitis and more. I recently got a severe underarm rash from who-knows-what and this balm fixed it nearly overnight. Lavender, yarrow and marshmallow combine with, you guessed it, calendula,  comfrey and helichrysum for anti-inflammatory and super healing powers that are unrivaled for me in other healing balms I’ve tried. And, no beeswax!! My skin is healthier and happier.

If you’re looking for a new line to try, this should go to the top of your list. I can’t say enough about the loveliness of its blends, its scents and its performance. Get thyself to their website!

Oh, and did I mention that the first 20 people to the A Night For Green Beauty event on August 7 in LA will snag a treat from Laurel WPO? No? Well, now you know to get there on time! Have you tried Laurel’s line? What do you think of it?

forgive I know, I know. Most of you guys are not coming to the site to get all touchy about feelings. And most days I too would rather talk clean concealers than grudges.

But just like we all need to eat our veggies, if we want to be the most beautiful versions of ourselves we’ve always said that certain more internal topics need our attention. I happen to believe that forgiveness is one of them.

During my time in yoga jail (aka the beautiful ashram where I did my teacher training) I was lucky to get a really good teaching on this topic from an unexpected source. It was probably about halfway through the monthlong course, and as much as I was loving it I was also starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by some of the more woowoo-hindu-god type stuff.

Then in walks the lanky and comfortably disheveled Fred Luskin to give us a lecture on forgiveness. Luskin was just what the doctor ordered: A cynical academic from Stanford who’d managed to pry open his own heart to become a leading expert on the topic of forgiveness. Without getting too detailed into his research (I invite you to watch some of his talks on youtubecheck out his books, and read this awesome article about his work on oprah.com), I’ll give you what I think is the crux of his argument:

Holding a grudge does nothing bad to your (real or imagined) perpetrator—and it does everything bad to your state of mind and feeling of safety in the world.

That’s not to say that Luskin doesn’t think we should get pissed when we feel like we’ve been wronged. Actually quite the opposite. But there’s an appropriate amount of time for holding a grudge before it starts writing a more permanent narrative in our lives, one that makes us fearful of others.

And that fear is shown to lead to bad behavior on our parts. If we feel wronged or threatened we are bound to turn that energy outward. Luskin claims his work is really just about getting people to be nicer to each other.

Luskin has some neat tricks and meditations/visualizations to help us rewrite our stories. But one really effective one he shares is the simple practice of gratitude. Turns out it’s really hard to hold a grudge when you feel grateful. And I’ll add for good measure that it’s hard to look beautiful while holding a grudge.

In fact, study after study has shown forgiveness to be good for the body—not just the mind and spirit.

So with that in mind, do you have any kind of gratitude or forgiveness practice? I’ll share mine if you share yours!

Stress Relief

There were lots of things this past holiday season that kind of pushed my anxiety button (full disclosure—it’s not that hard to find. I’m the kind of classic worrier who spends a half hour trying to fall asleep but failing because the next day’s to-do list, and all the ways it won’t get done, is bumbling around in my head). It was the first time I’d ever understood the stereotypical busyness of that time of year: There were countless parties and events to attend, including a host of before-Christmas festivities with my immediate family because my new husband and I were to spend the holi-day visiting his out-of-town family. There was twice the presents to be bought and wrapped, twice the budget to finagle, packing to be done, work projects to complete and travel plans to be made—all with an expected air of merriment and relative calmness. Oh, and did I mention I was going through the third of five rounds of supplements that were meant to kill the low-grade infection that was zapping all my energy and making me sleep at weird times of the day?

Unable to sustain things, I broke down. A few times. In the bathroom. While decorating the Christmas tree. Before work. During work. After work. When my husband moved the wash cloths from their designated place under the kitchen sink. I just couldn’t pull myself together (despite being very deliberate about taking down and alone time, more than even little old introverted me usually needs).

So, I decided I needed a little help to combat my tension, exhaustion, stress and anxiety. Here are the four things that helped me stop worrying, stop feeling overwhelmed and gave me the energy to make it through even that cat commercial from the Animal Humane Society without crying.

  1. Bach’s Rescue Pastilles: Now, there’s a chance that these are just a placebo, but every time I pop one of these black-currant-flavored jellies into my mouth, I feel an almost immediate relief of stress. Its main ingredient, Helianthemum nummularium (or rockrose), is known for giving courage and helping to bring you back to the present. Impatiens glandulifera, another key ingredient, helps when you lose patience with problems (or people), and the inclusion of cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) balances your mind when you feel out of control. I needed all those things.
  2. Alexis Smart Flower Remedies, LifeSaver: We talk a lot about naturopathic medicine and aromatherapy here on NMDL, but we haven’t ventured much into the remedy realm. As a disciple of natural and homeopathic treatments, I’ve tried a few homeopathic remedies in my day (cactus and cancer—yes, cancer—to name a couple), but haven’t had any miraculous, fixed-all-my-problems-from-childhood experiences like you’re sorta supposed to. My money ran out before I could achieve such actualization and though I see a naturopath regularly, I haven’t ventured back into the remedy realm. Then I heard about Alexis Smart, an LA-based practitioner who mixes flower remedies by consult or sells her most popular blends online. I was intrigued because LifeSaver, one of her “Calm” blends, seemed to suite my current stresses perfectly—and unlike homeopathic remedies, floral blends don’t cause a relapse into old symptoms or habits before they start working. After only two weeks of use, I could feel a huge difference in my perspective. I was calmer; I could juggle all my work projects, even when they overlapped. I didn’t snap when my husband used the wrong spatula on our new frying pans. I didn’t lose sleep over our budget. I could take care of myself and not worry when that took all of my energy. The amazing side effects have lasted and continue to improve—and I no longer have a heavy weight on my chest when I examine my to-do list.
  3. La Bella Figura Travel Therapy Mood Booster: I’ve already sung the praises of this little roller-ball, but I seriously am addicted. While I haven’t tested its power on airplane travel, I did use it on the 10+ hour Christmas Eve car ride, and let me tell you, it kept me sane. I think it even made the trip seem faster, if that’s possible. It’s a powerful mood booster, as its name suggests, and it smells divine. I haven’t been this obsessed with a fragrance since my pot of Malibu Barbie solid perfume. And that was when I was 8.
  4. Yoga Studio App for iPad: As any serious yogi will tell you, yoga relaxes. It forces you to become present, to forget about your worries and to breathe. I’ve had this app for a while now and I use it at least four times a week. It has beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of relaxation, strength, combination and flexibility classes, with the option of creating your own flow. Taking a break during my work day for a 30-minute yoga class in my living room changes how I interact with my to-do list. It gives me back control and calm and allows me to de-stress without the cost of a yoga-studio membership.

Your turn: When you’re at your most stressed, what do you turn to to calm down and refocus? What helps you feel less overwhelmed and more prepared to face life?

Yesterday, Alexandra and I did an interview with a lovely journalist. When her article is done, we’ll share it, but in the meantime, I’ll share this: She remarked on Alexandra’s very brave and inspiring new year’s resolution post, which you should read and comment on if you have not already. Then she asked me what mine was. I actually shared some on Prevention.com, along with 19 other healthy-living types, just the other day. I’m sticking to those, but…

Over a glass of prosecco, I came up with some others.

I’ve just gotten back from a much-needed jaunt to Miami with our buddy Anna. On our first night, we wrote out our intentions for 2013 on a scrap of paper provided for us by the bartender. Our lists were long! Less filled with resolutions than intentions, I’d say. Mine were all over the map, but if I had to peg them all to a theme, I’d go with this: “Go big or go home.” Which is what tumbled out of my mouth when this woman asked me about my plans for 2013.

I was instantly embarrassed. Who, other than frat boys and rappers, uses that line unironically? And yet I stand by it. That’s because last year, while full of important lessons and countless blessings, kind of kicked my ass. After being sick for many years, my older brother passed away. It’s a loss I still don’t have words for, even as I take comfort in (and often laugh out loud about) his wily, clever spirit, his pranks, and how caring he was as a father and a husband and a friend. So even if the words don’t quite come, I can tell you this: When you lose a person you love deeply and you’re still standing, it emboldens you a little. You grow up. You change on the inside.

So this year, I’m feeling brave. For me, going big means that at 34, I will finally learn how to drive a car (I seriously don’t understand how you people do this, but I’m determined to find out). It also means I’ll work and love and live with more ferocity than ever. Ultimately, it probably also means I’ll change my life in ways that are uncomfortable for a moment—but uncomfortable in the way a hamstring stretch is uncomfortable. Which is to say very—for like five seconds. And then you’re more nimble and pliable and relaxed than you were before. Fact is, no matter what part of you is changing, the letting go can hurt a little at first. But if you think about it, and if you’ll allow me to be incredibly corny for a second, I think we can all agree that letting go is actually the bravest thing you can do in almost every situation.

So… That’s me. Say what you want about resolutions, but I think it helps to think of them, as I said, as intentions rather than rules. So what spirit and focus do you want to bring to your life this year? We’d love to know. Really.

Inspiring and pretty photo via

6

Get Happier: What Are You Grateful For?

Oh man! Let’s get corny.

Alexandra and I are big fans of gratitude exercises, so let’s take this opportunity to have one together, shall we?

I spend a decent amount of time thinking about what I’m grateful for; I do it almost every day. There are countless documented benefits of such practices, from reducing depression and anxiety to lowering blood pressure and improving your social bonds, according to brand new research. Also, it just feels good.

For this go-round, instead of thinking big-picture, I’m going to share 5 things I’m grateful for right this moment.

Please, when you’re done at the dinner table with your family or friends, share yours, too!

1. The “good morning” email I woke up to. It didn’t say much else, but it made me smile in my half-sleep. That’s a lovely way to wake up, and I’m grateful for that.

2. The guy who kept landing on my mat at yoga. You know those days when every stranger seems to have been placed in your path with the express purpose of irritating you? And yet you know (or at least I hope you know) that it’s really all about you, and that with a slight shift in perspective, these annoyances will dissolve? Anyway, that happened to me today at yoga. The class was jammed, and the guy next to me kept downward-dogging his gigantic left foot onto my mat. The first time it kind of bothered me. For some reason, though, I decided it was funny—and then the next dozen or so times he landed on my mat, it actually made me laugh to myself, bringing levity and humor to an otherwise challenging class. So I’m grateful to wayward-foot dude, and everyone else in the room, for an amusing two hours. Strangers are our teachers!*

3. The peanut butter cookie I just ate instead of lunch. Vegan, gluten-free and utterly, insanely delicious. I’ll share the recipe in an upcoming Meatless Monday Inspiration post, promise.

4. My meditation practice. I’m back on the wagon, y’all. Are you? If you still don’t have a daily practice, no big deal. We have 11 easy ways to meditate over here—they’re worth your time and effort, especially around the holidays, when most of us get a little emotional about something or other: That story your sister decided to tell (again) about the time you did something really dumb when you were 13; the fact that you’re missing people who aren’t around, at least in a physical form, anymore; the offhand comment about your love life that throws you for a loop. Put simply, meditation helps you react less. This is a very useful tool to have at your disposal when you need it.

5. My body. Sometimes, you feel like your feet have been cemented to cinderblocks. Other times, you feel like a cute little frog hopping around weightlessly. The former makes the latter all the more special, right? Today, I’m thankful I feel froggy.

All right! What about you? What are you grateful for?

* That might take the cake for “corniest thing Siobhan has ever said.” I mean it, though.