It’s nearly here: summer. It may be hiding around the corner of a few rainy days (or snowstorms, if you’re in the Midwest with me), but IT. IS. COMING. I can feel it.

Summer begs for a change to our wardrobes and our makeup routines. It asks us to drop our dark colors in favor of breezy beauty. It reminds us that we look better with a little glow. And so, with the help of Embody Beauty Founder Samjhana Shrestha, I responded. Together, we’re bringing you a step-by-step tutorial to enhance your natural glow and emulate one of my style heroes, Blake Lively (girl is ALWAYS glowing. Like, literally. And that hair? Perfection.). Read on for all the natural goodies you need to create The Lively Glow. Read more…


Holiday Gift Guide

Gifts Galore

It’s December, people. And though some of us maybe finished our holiday shopping over the long, sale-filled holiday weekend, others of us may not be that on top of things. Enter this gift guide.

I love gift-giving. I have an entire secret Pinterest board dedicated to gifts for others so when my husband or sister or best friend mentions something they’ve been coveting, I have a safe place to stash the idea for later. This year, I’m doing beauty-related gifts for many friends, so I wanted to share a few of my fave pressies. Check them out below (for all budgets, for all kinds of beauty gals).

For the clean beauty skeptic: Since swapping clean products into my whole beauty caboodle, I’ve tried to convert as many friends as possible to the clean beauty movement. Some are more hesitant than others, and the ones who I have the hardest time convincing are the ones most concerned about cost. So I point them to a multi-tasker that usually woos them to trying more clean products: Acure Organics’ Argan Oil. It’s a hair-smoother, a cuticle oil, a face moisturizer. And it has a friendly price point if they want to repurchase for themselves.

For the beauty aficionado: The Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Winter Glow Gift Set. I’ve talked before about how much I love the Vitamin D Mist, and this set boasts that toner, plus a yummy Vitamin C serum that even my mom loves (and she used to use only Vaseline to moisturize her face). Top those off with a colorless face powder and angled kabuki brush help you hit this season’s matte face look and you’ve got a great combo for a girlfriend who’s a tad more in-the-know.

Me Encanta in practice.

Me, wearing the Me Encanta, no filter.

For the makeup maven: I can’t say enough about loving Alima Pure’s wide range of mineral foundations, but now I love their eyeshadows and mascara as well. Their holiday set, Me Encanta, comes from a collaboration with green makeup artist Kristen Arnett. I love love love the navy shadow included in the kit (I used it as a liner) and the blush is my all-time favorite color (I wore it for my wedding, for Pete’s sake). There’s even a how-to video on creating a subtle look with the liner, contour powder and blush. Fool proof. And a perfectly well-rounded present.

For the jet-setter: This Travel Therapy Botanical Mood Booster from La Bella Figura Beauty is one of those things I’m not sure how to make it through the day without. It smells like sunshine, it sticks around for a looooong time and I’ve gotten dozens (not exaggerating) compliments on how I smell, even after not showering for four days, when I’m wearing this puppy. It calms me—and anyone who smells me—down and makes every hurried day, full of airplane travel or just regular old commuting, better.

If you’re on a budget: Much like I am. Alexandra once blogged about why she loves gifting aromatherapy, but let me add to her points by saying it’s a super easy way to customize gifts and to not have to pick out makeup colors. You know your best friends; you know what’s bugging them. Therefore, you know what aromatherapy might benefit them. (Plus, we have a kick-ass deal going on with Essence of Vali until the end of the year. Save your dollar bills and give gifts your peeps will love.)

Or, do a little DIY for the holidays. Get some cute plastic bottles and fill them with a DIY dry shampoo. Or a body scrub. Or a lip balm. The thought goes a long way (and if your friends are like mine, they’ll be thrilled you took time to make them something, not just swipe your credit card.)

For the boy: Olie Biologique JUST released a Whisker Oil for before and after shaving. It smells manly and helps reduce redness and irritation. Or check out the body soaps from Osmia Organics. I only got my husband to switch from Dove when he smelled these babies. (Get a body oil for yourself while you’re at it—Water Lily is my fave and I started wearing it as a perfume.)

What did I miss? What are you snagging for friends, family or S.O.s?


10 Amazing Beauty Tricks With Coconut Oil

Hello! We whipped up this story for Prevention, and we thought we’d share it with you, too!

What do you use coconut oil for??

1. To soothe dry hands

This won’t work for dry digits when you’re on the go, but at home, coconut oil can work wonders on your dishwashing-parched hands. “I keep a jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil by the kitchen sink and put a little on after washing my hands to keep them soft and moist,” says Dr. Low Dog. And if you cook with coconut oil—you can sub it for butter in baking recipes because it’s solid at room temperature—scoop out a little extra for your hands, too. “Whenever I cook with coconut oil, I make sure to moisturize my hands with it too,” says Katrine van Wyk, a holistic health and nutrition coach based in New York.

2. As a cheekbone highlighter

Nothing perks up a tired face like a little highlighter, but you don’t need store-bought products to achieve the same effect. Simply sweep a small amount of coconut oil on top of makeup and leave it alone. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why many natural makeup brands use it as a base ingredient in their formulas. If you’re looking for a more portable option, try the cult favorite Living Luminizer by RMS Beauty, which has a coconut-oil base and light reflecting pigment.

3. To shave your legs

Conventional shaving cream is an expensive cocktail of chemicals that you don’t need to get a nice clean shave on your legs or underarms. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is inexpensive, naturally antimicrobial, and smells divine. Plus, its skin-soothing properties will leave your legs looking hydrated (but never greasy).

4. As a deep-conditioner

There’s a reason many conditioners contain coconut oil: It’s better able to penetrate hair (and prevent protein loss) than mineral and sunflower oil, according to research. “I use it in my hair and on my skin for deep conditioning,” says Tasneen Bhatia, MD, an integrative doctor and owner of the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine. Apply a quarter-size dollop to your hair, comb it, and then pile it into a loose bun. You’ll want to place a soft towel over your pillow or sleep in a shower cap. In the morning, shampoo as usual with a gentle cleanser.

5. To remove eye makeup

Yes, coconut oil even works on waterproof mascara! Put a little on a cotton ball and gently sweep it over your eyes, paying attention to your under-eyes as well. The oil does a great job breaking down waxy, inky eye makeup, and leaves the delicate area hydrated, too. Once you’re done, wash your face as usual.

6. As a body moisturizer

A recent animal study found that when applied topically, virgin coconut oil can speed up wound healing, and a human study found it to be effective in increasing hydration and reducing water loss in seriously dry skin. Sounds like a recipe for a really good lotion to us! It’s a health-expert favorite, too. Says Wyk: “It smells delicious, is very affordable, and leaves my skin feeling nourished and smooth.”

7. To clean and hydrate your face

Because coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, moisturizing and, according to research, great for atopic dermatitis, many women swear by its use as a nighttime moisturizer for their face, too. Try the double-cleansing method: Simply rub the oil in circular motions all over your face and neck, giving yourself a gentle massage as you go. When you’re done, wash off the residue with your favorite cleanser. (If you’re adult-acne prone, avoid this technique unless you know your skin tolerates coconut oil.)

Read the last three here.

Meet Efe and her awesome and detailed morning routine! You had me at DIY flaxseed gel, Efe—a formula we wrote about in the book that I’ve always been meaning to try. Can you post your recipe in the comments? Also, any tips for hyperpigmentation? To the rest of you, we still have some awesome routines in our coffers, but we want moremoremore! If you’ve been meaning to send yours, get on it. xx

Name: Efe

Age: 21

Hometown: New Jersey

Current weather: Sunny, bright and humid for the past couple of days.

Hair: My hair is jet-black, kinky coily/Afro-textured and 12 inches long.

Skin: My skin is dark brown with golden undertones. It is normal-to-dry 
and I rarely get any pimples (when I do they tend to lead to
 hyperpigmentation). I always get compliments on my radiant skin—some most
 decidedly awkward and some not.

Favorite star: Shingai Shoniwa

In the shower…

Every morning I hop into the shower, brush my teeth with Nature’s Gate
Creme de Mint Natural Toothpaste and follow up with a bit of lip
exfoliation. I cleanse my body with Dudu-Osun African black soap and an
African net bath sponge. (My Grandmother brought for me from Nigeria. A
similar bath sponge may possibly be purchased at an African grocery
store). The Dudu-Osun soap smells awesome [citrus-y and fresh] and
cleanses without stripping moisture away. The African net bath sponge
exfoliates my skin gently and effectively (no body scrubs or loofahs for
me!). I finish up my shower by thoroughly exfoliating the soles and heels
of my feet with a pumice stone.

Outside the shower…

I massage unrefined shea butter or Shea Moisture Organic Raw Shea Butter
Lotion into my damp skin. I love shea butter—the earthy smell, the feel of
it, the way it makes my skin oh so soft, smooth and supple… *swoons.* I
apply Crystal Essence Mineral Deodorant Roll-On in the Lavender and White
Tea scent. Once a week, I shave my legs using Kiss My Face Fragrance-Free
Moisture Shave and a Gillette Venus Sensitive Skin Disposable Women’s
Razor. I can’t be bothered to do it more often…seriously. The shaving
cream is quite nice–super creamy, extra moisturizing and little goes a
long way.

In the morning, I cleanse my face with Dudu-Osun soap, tone with my DIY
Green Tea Toner (and a cotton pad) and moisturize with Aubrey Organics
Rosa Mosqueta Rose Hip Moisturizing Cream. These products work perfectly
for my skin. The Dudu-Osun soap is gentle and effective, my DIY Green Tea
Toner works well (I even have some family members using it!) and the
Aubrey Organics Moisturizing Cream makes my skin especially soft and
smooth. At night, I repeat my morning routine and apply Now Foods Tea Tree
Oil on any pimples with a cotton swab. Once a week I do a DIY Greek Yogurt
Mask. It tightens, soothes and softens and my skin quite nicely. I don’t
exfoliate as of right now but I’m looking into a soft yet effective facial
brush for that purpose.
I wash my hair every 5-7 days. On wash-and-style day I detangle/condition,
cleanse, moisturize, set my hair in 16 braids, seal (apply oil to the ends
of my braids and my hairline), air-dry for a day under a cute hat and
style (braid-out, bun or updo). I wash-and-style my hair in the afternoon
or at night and do everything except for outside of the shower. Here are a
list of the hair care products I use— Shea Moisture Purification Masque,
DIY Aloe Vera Gel/Castor Oil Hair Mask or Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin
Coconut Oil (detangle/condition); Shea Moisture Moisture Retention Shampoo
(cleanse); Alba Botanica Leave-In Conditioner + Shea Moisture Curl & Style
Milk or Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque (moisturize); DIY Flax Seed
Gel (for buns); Lily of the Dessert Aloe Vera Gel (detangle/condition) and
Heritage Castor Oil (seal, detangle/condition). I love hair care and
styling—it’s my favorite part of my “beauty” routine.

Finishing touches…

I wear very little make-up. First, I apply Burt’s Bees Lip Balm or EOS
Sweet Mint Lip Balm to my lips. Then I fill in my eyebrows with Ecco Bella
Soft Eyeliner Pencil in Velvet and apply Physician Formula Organic Wear
Jumbo Lash Mascara in Ultra Black Organics. When I’m feeling extra glam, I
do a cat eye eyeliner look using Suncoat Cosmetics Natural Liquid Eyeliner
in Chic Black. I also sometimes use Alba Botanica Coconut Cream Clear Lip
Gloss over my lip balm. I don’t wear perfume currently but I would like
to. I’m looking into natural perfumes—I may try the vanilla extract tip
that I read somewhere on this blog.  As for nails, I always use a 3-free
nail polish and an acetone-free nail polish remover for my weekly
manicures. I am doing research into natural nail polishes. It’s a work in
progress…much like everything in life.


DIY Muscle/Detox Oil

For many years I used arnica gel for muscle soreness, and it worked fine but I wasn’t completely satisfied.  The one I used was pretty clean, I think, but I thought essential oils might be a better (and cleaner) solution. Plus, the gel is so cold going on and that first moment of application made me cringe. I’ve been working on this EO recipe for a while, and now have a blend I’m pleased with in both performance and scent.  It’s a multi-tasker too, which I certainly value.

Vetiver, 20 drops – immediate relief, chronic conditions

Sandalwood, 20 drops – immediate relief

Lavender, 10 drops – strains/spasms

Litsea, 5 drops – immediate relief

Grapefruit, 15 drops – continued recovery

Fennel, 10 drops – chronic conditions

Peppermint, 10 drops – immediate relief, chronic conditions

Clary Sage, 5 drops – strains/spasms

Helichrysum, 5 drops – continued recovery

Drop the EOs in a 2oz amber glass dropper bottle, then fill it up with grapeseed oil.

Tip the bottle back and forth or roll it to blend.  Easy, and it really works!

It rubs into the skin easily, but you could dampen the skin with water or spray with a hydrosol for even easier application.

I have chronic shoulder/neck issues that are definitely improved with use of this mix. I’ve also used it successfully on low backaches, and various strains and soreness from activity.

I’m very happy with this combination of oils and will keep making it, possibly working with proportion a bit for each new batch.  You could use fewer oils to simplify the recipe, just pay attention to the purpose of each oil you are adding. Sandalwood and Helichrysum are on the more expensive side, so if that’s an issue you could leave those out and add more of the other oils that serve a similar purpose. The overall smell of my blend is pretty earthy, as the vetiver and sandalwood would suggest. But the lighter notes are definitely there, with peppermint standing out a bit. I like the smell (my son tells me I smell good after using it), and if you mix it and decide it’s too strong, you can always dilute it more.  Watch out for the litsea if you decide to add extra— it can get very Lemon Pledge-y if you add too much (but it is big on performance so if you enjoy that scent go for it). The carrier oil could be anything you like. I chose grapeseed because it has a pretty neutral scent and my skin likes it. Arnica oil might be a good choice too, but the one I have has an olive oil base, and my skin doesn’t seem to care for olive oil.

This particular blend is also good for detox, as well as for supporting sleep, and I’ve been using it on my hands and feet before bed. I’m sleeping soundly and I feel like it’s supporting my cleanse efforts. I am thinking to add this blend to some bath salts, but I haven’t tried that yet. Most of my EOs came from Mountain Rose Herbs, as did my bottle. The Hope Gillerman Essential Oils Deck was very helpful in creating the recipe, and I highly recommend the deck for anyone beginning to work with EOs.

Will you try this recipe?  Do you have a go-to for muscle aches?

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