It’s been well over a year since we started the morning routine series. They began on a “really hot, muggy, humid, generally gross” August morning in 2011, because we thought it would be fun to share with all of you the products that we use every day before we leave the house. Now, you guys send us yours, and they’re consistently inspiring to this vibrant community of natural beauty lovers, am I right?

Since it’s December 2012, and my life, as well as my routine, has changed, I thought I’d give it another go. I’m a Scorpio, which, among other things, means I’m fiercely loyal and I like what I like. It’s fun, looking back, to see which products I’m still using. Still, some were traded out for products I like even better. (Warning: This post is long, because it’s doubling as a gang of new product reviews. You might want to skim—or grab a snack.)

Name: Siobhan

Age: 34

Current weather: It’s been a mild, climate-changey winter so far, with some rare chillier days.

Hair: Blonde, long, wavy when air dried.

Skin: Irish. Which is to say, reactive, sensitive, pale, a little freckly, and pale. Did I mention pale? Oh, and reactive.

In the shower…

Most days, I shower rather speedily. Since I don’t typically wash my face in the morning, my shower routine is pretty straightforward: I dry brush before I get in the shower, then I wash my hair. My new go-tos are Intelligent Nutrients PureLuxe shampoo and conditioner. I’ve run out and repurchased them several times because they leave my hair super shiny, manageable and smelling great. I don’t have overly dry hair but I live in fear of it, and these two products give just the right amount of moisture, without feeling greasy. A couple of times a week, I swap out IN for the Seaweed Bath Company’s argan oil conditioner. It has wax pretty high up on the ingredient list, and I find it reliable on days when I want my hair to hold a style.

If I wash my face, I use Kahina‘s or Marie Veronique Organics’ (new obsession—I love the whole line), which is slippery and cleansing without being overly drying. If I’m too lazy to make my own body scrub, which is most days, I use a squeaky-clean new one by the Brooklyn-based Metropolis Soap Company in honeysuckle and violet. My new go-to bar cleanser is the Activated Charcoal Soap by Soapwalla. It’s technically a face wash but I’ve been using it on my body. It contains activated charcoal and tea tree oil, and it’s also made in Brooklyn, which is neither here nor there, but kind of neat.

If I’m feeling under the weather or if I’m showering before bed, I massage my chest with Hope Gillerman’s Travel Remedy. The essential oils support immunity, promote restful sleep and make my tiny apartment smell like a spa. Which is nice.

Outside the shower…

Very few things I hate more than applying moisturizer on my body, but I do it almost every day. These days I alternate between Weleda’s New Rose Pampering Body Lotion (I love this stuff) and Vered’s Muscle Soothing Massage and Body Oil, which has been especially helpful since I bit it on the subway stairs the other night, had to get stitches, and seriously bruised up both my calves. (Pro tip: Don’t fall in the subway. It hurts.)

Once this tiresome step is done, I apply Soapwalla Deodorant, spray my face with either Kahina’s Toning Mist or Marie-Veronique Organic’s Anti-Aging Mist, and rub in a touch of Kahina’s Brightening Serum. Sometimes, I apply a dab of Tammy Fender Intensive Repair Balm, which I still swear by for night. If I look tired, I apply a Rejuvenating Eye Cream by Amala. It’s cocoa bean-based, which helps constrict blood vessels to reduce puffiness, and works almost as if by miracle to eliminate undereye bags. (Before bed it’s still La Bella Figura.)

Next, I apply Suntegrity Sunscreen, which got the #1 rating from the EWG this year for lotions with SPF. Who wants to shoot me first? Because the stuff contains (mineral-based) dimethicone. I have decided I can deal with it in this product because the ingredient deck is otherwise very clean, and because it’s the most effective, versatile and cosmetically appealing sunscreen I have ever tried. And I have tried many. It works kind of like a BB cream. I’ve finally found one I want to use every day, and this is it. You’re welcome? I’m sorry? Whatever? I love this product.

Finishing touches…

If I have meetings, which I usually do, I will follow with Suki Tinted Active Face Moisturizer in Porcelain, for an overall evening-out effect. I’ll set that with Laura Mercier loose minerals in Sand, line my eyes with Bare Minerals’ (unfortunately very messy) loose eyeliner in black, applied with a stiff damp brush. I keep my face simple for day, so that means I might swipe some RMS Beauty lip2cheek in Smile on cheeks and lips or some W3LL People Universalist in the peachy color, and dab on some Living Luminizer. I also love Ilia in a bunch of different colors. If I feel like a very bold lip, I’m probably cheating with non-naturals from Bite or Chanel.

For mascara, it’s either 100% Pure or the new thick-as-hell “Fake Out” one from Organic Wear (the pink tube) or both. Some days, I fill in my super-pale eyebrows with NVey Eco Eye Shadow Palette in No. 3. It’s not meant for brows, but it works. If I’m really going for it, I apply a touch of color to my lids, too. Makeup tends to scream on my face, though, so I use a light touch.

Finally, my perfumes of choice are still Lotus Wei Infinite Love or Tata Harper Irritability Treatment (as a perfume), or both!

Couple things, before I go: First, I don’t always follow all these steps. Second, I now fear I sound way more high-maintenance than I actually am. Any products here that you love too? Anything new to you?

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Name: Katie Drummond

Home: Brooklyn, NY

My dietary leanings: After following a strict vegan diet for around 12 years, I’ve spent the past 16 months embracing all the food out there—from Greek yogurt and smoked gouda cheese to shrimp and (yes!) hamburgers. It’s been a wild, delicious, and overall very healthy (for me) transition. That said, my boyfriend and I tend to keep things vegetarian at home. For us, that includes cheese, eggs, yogurt, and milk. And my meat consumption is still fairly limited (although I’m open and eager to try anything, and really should eat more fish, because that stuff is good for you!). In previous years, I’ve struggled to eat enough for my active lifestyle, so I now make a conscious effort to eat regular, well-rounded meals.

My favorite vegetable:
It depends what we’re talking about here. For easy, after-work meals or packed lunches, my go-to veggies are raw carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. All delicious plain, or dipped in hummus, guacamole, and even nut butters. If I’m actually preparing a vegetable, or enjoying some at a restaurant, I can never say no to Brussels sprouts, kale, or a big plate of roasted vegetables.

For breakfast…

I get up pretty early to go to the gym before work (assuming I’ve slept enough the night before, and limited my wine consumption to a reasonable level) so I try to eat a small breakfast around 6AM even if I’m not hungry. Today’s was a sandwich on Ezekiel sprouted grain bread: Mixed greens, sliced tomato, two hardboiled eggs (from Trader Joe’s, because if I’m gonna turn on the stove…I’d rather cook something more interesting), and a generous slather of hummus. Of course, washed down with the requisite cup (okay, three cups) of coffee.

For a snack..

Ravenous by 10 AM, as usual, so I opted for a 2% Greek yogurt and a Honeycrisp apple. I’ve been eating this snack since I departed from veganism, and it’s my favorite, hands down. Something about the combination of apple and rich, plain yogurt…magic. Plus a ton of protein; can’t go wrong.

For lunch…

Today’s lunch was brought to you by the Indian place down the street from my apartment. A tupperware container of cauliflower-potato curry, chickpea curry, and a few Tandoori vegetables, polished off with a piece of whole-wheat roti. Okay, a little bit spicy for a midday meal at work (sorry, co-workers, about the breath thing) but totally worth it.

For dinner…

Dinner at home is usually where things get lazy. I’ve been up since 6, already packed a snack and a lunch for work that day, I’m tired, and I just really want to sit around and watch TV. Enter Trader Joe’s, where you can buy bags of shredded Brussels sprouts (among other wondrous convenience foods). Tonight, I decided to experiment: Sauteed the Brussels in olive oil, added mushrooms, a few handfuls of crushed walnuts, cubes of extra-firm tofu, the spices I had on hand, and some salt and pepper. A Brussels sprout stir-fry, I guess? Actually very good. Washed it down with two large glasses of wine, because it was Monday and because I love wine.

For dessert…

A homemade peanut butter and jelly bar (the recipe is from an old vegan cookbook of mine, and has been a family favorite for years). This is basically a crust made from flour, sugar, peanut butter, baking soda, and salt, a layer of strawberry preserves, and a chunky peanut butter topping. SO. GOOD.

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Do You Take Anything To Help You Sleep?

If we don’t get our Z’s in these parts we turn into pretty unhappy girls. Neither of us struggle too badly, luckily. A little chamomile tea and Siobhan is out like a light. As for me, I very occasionally take some magnesium if I’m having trouble cooling my jets. It seems to work. How bout you—any natural (or other) sleep supplements?

Today Well+Good takes us through five natural remedies that are proven to work, with expert input from the likes of Dr. Lipman and Dr. Weil. Enjoy!

Ambien and other prescription sleep aids have become a stressed-out New Yorker’s best friend (and a $14 billion business). But they’re not necessarily the solution for green-juice-drinking healthy types who prefer a drug-free route to seven solid hours of shut eye.
Because it’s also exhausting trying to find an herbal remedy that actually works, we got recommendations from Jim Nicolai, MD, Medical Director of the Andrew Weil, MD, Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval in Tucson, and functional medicine expert, Dr. Frank Lipman, MD.

Here are the effective, herbal sleep supplements they say will gently help you doze off and get your beauty sleep without a drug-addled hangover.


If you’re someone who has trouble falling asleep (rather than waking in the middle of the night), melatonin is the best option. This is a big one for anyone who lives in a city, travels a lot, or has an abnormal sleep-wake cycle (AKA parents of young children).

“Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that’s released in cycles throughout the day. It keeps us alert during the day and at rest during the night, and it is what our body needs to in order to sleep,” Dr. Lipman explains.

How it works: “Many people don’t have high enough levels of melatonin at night, so adding the supplement can help you fall asleep,” explains Dr. Lipman.

2. Holy Basil

If you’re under a lot of stress (or going through something emotional) and consistently wake up in the middle of the night, holy basil’s for you. It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and “creates a sense of calm by lowering anxiety and depression.”

How it works: Stress disrupts cortisol’s regular rhythm, Dr. Nicolai explains. “Often cortisol spikes between 6 and 8 a.m. to wake us up, but stress causes this spike to go backwards, waking us at 3 or 4 a.m. and holy basil can moderate this cortisol response.”

3. Valerian Root

If your racing mind causes you to wake up in the middle of the night so often that you’re considering medication for help staying asleep, Valerian root is your friend.

It helps calm the nervous system, says Dr. Nicolai. “It can be very helpful in creating a low level of calm without causing a major hangover or histamine coma or fog.”

How it works: “It’s a mild sedative that lowers the anxiety response and promotes relaxation and sleep,” explains Dr. Nicolai.

4. 5-Hydroxytryptophane (5-HTP)

If you struggle with the winter blues and depression, mood-boosting 5-HTP might help add some extra hours of Zzzs. A more modern supplement, for decades Europeans have used 5-HTP to treat sleep and depression.

How it works: This amino acid is the building block of melatonin and it converts to serotonin, the “feel good” hormone, says Dr. Lipman. “Because 5-HTP is the precursor of serotonin and necessary for melatonin formation, it’s very beneficial for mood and sleep.”

See the last recommendation here.


Three Reasons I Love To Gift Aromatherapy

Santa, take note. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than giving (or getting) the gift of a truly beautiful, natural smell. I was thinking about this whole gifting thing, and how the holidays are a great time to help spread the clean beauty experience to the women we love. But aromatherapy—instead of say, face wash—is a particularly great place to start because you’re not telling people to replace anything in their current routine, you’re just adding a new element and helping expand their senses.

I mean, who here remembers the first time they fell for a natural smell over a synthetic one? I often go back to my early experience

At any rate, I’ve gifted my share of natural beauty products, and can say with confidence that—while a small vile of Hope Gillerman or Tata Harper or a Lotus Wei energy mist may not have the wow factor of a new iPad—these gifts have had the most longterm impact. And here’s how I know: Every time I have given one of these magical formulas, the receiver has continued to buy it themselves. (And in my case that often means Canadians who have to jump through hoops, beg me to send them re-ups, or pay all kinds of shipping to get their hands on this stuff.)

And if scented oils and mists feel too pricey or risky—natural scented candles like these and these, or room diffusers like these, or the more affordable and awesome Essence of Vali products are all wonderful too.

Here’s why I think aromatherapy is so perfect to give…

1. It’s thoughtful and personal.

You have to choose carefully when it comes to smells. So even if the person is not into naturals or aromatherapy, you need to have a sense of what kind of scents appeal to them. (Though if you’re totally stumped I’ve included a list of crowd-pleasers at the end of the post.)

2. It’s powerful.

This stuff works, and science concurs. Most everyone in your life is probably stressed out, and smells like jasmine, rose, and lavender are proven to help people calm down. Is anything better than that?

3. People don’t get it for themselves.

Some people prefer getting practical gifts, but I do think there’s something really nice about giving a gift you know will be enjoyed that someone would never think to get for themselves.

Now for the cheat sheet. According to one study these are the top 10 most universally beloved smells: 1. lime (fruit) 2. grapefruit (fruit) 3. bergamot (similar to an orange in scent) 4. orange (fruit) 5. peppermint 6. freesia (flower) 7. amyl acetate (a molecule that smells like apples and bananas) 8. cassia (similar to cinnamon) 9. mimosa (flowering tree) 10. fir (tree)

Are you gifting any wellness products or DIY concoctions this year? Is aromatherapy on the list?

P.S. In slightly unrelated gifting news… If you’re a mom, or gifting one, obviously clean kids’ products are a boon. But I wanted to engage in some shameless nepotism here, and point the mom set to my sister-in-law’s awesome illustrated poster site South and Summer. She’s created these very cool posters inspired by the toys of our childhood, and I just think they’d make a great gift for parents who like design and have a hard time finding cool kid’s decor. You’re welcome!

Flower grid image from the Lotus Wei site.

Meet Courtney, a fair-skinned maiden who bathes every evening. She truly loves her hemp oil too… Have any of you tried it? (We have not.)

Name:  Courtney

Age:  33

Current weather:  Finally cooling down from a hot & humid summer. With the cool though comes dry. My skin hates dry.

Hair:  Dark brown, thin, wavy, & as of last week: shoulder length with side-swept bangs (was previously to my elbows). A big change but I’m loving it!

Skin:  Very fair, thin, sensitive, & dehydrated at the moment thanks to the aforementioned weather.

Favorite star or icon from the past (or in this case, present):  Zooey Deschanel

In the shower (or bath as I usually prefer)…

I take a bath every night. There’s something so truly relaxing about unwinding in one at the end of the day. Ahhh… Right before stepping in, I massage in my DIY facial cleanser of 9:1 hemp oil & polysorbate 80 (the latter purchased from gardenofwisdom). I used to love department store lines’ cleansing oils, but could never find one that completely agreed with my skin, so alas made my own a few years ago & have never looked back. It removes absolutely everything, & leaves my skin balanced & clear. I don’t think I’ve ever loved any product so much.

I then hop in, rinse that off, & lather up with whatever palm oil-free bar soap I’m enjoying at the moment from the Farmer’s Market, Etsy, or Whole Foods. I wash my hair every three days or so with Giovanni Smooth as Silk Shampoo & Conditioner. This stuff rocks. It makes my hair so shiny! I had laser hair removal years ago on my legs, so shaving cream is one less product I need to have in my shower, but I do of course shave other bits as necessary with a Preserve razor (made from yogurt cups, so cool).

Outside the shower…

I slather some hemp oil onto my face, neck & chest. Then curl my lashes & apply mascara while that soaks in (an unmentionable one, as sadly none of the natural ones I’ve tried have pacified me thus far). Then comes my beloved Burnout Ocean Tested SPF 30+ (the BEST sunscreen ever). At this point I typically run a comb through my hair & maybe pull part of it back in a claw clip. Yep, this is why I cut my hair off. I’m that lazy with it.

Finishing touches…

Some Alima Mahogany Satin Matte Shadow to fill in my brows just a bit, RMS Living Luminizer on my brow bones & inner eye corners, RMS Smile Lip-2-Cheek on my cheeks, & a red lipstick of choice (currently back to Hemp Organics Red Zin). If I’m feeling really glam, I’ll apply some RMS Karma to my eyelids, but typically opt to instead spend that extra 30 seconds snoozing. I keep Alaffia Unscented Shea Butter in my handbag for mid-day moisture, along with my “perfume” – a bottle of Aura Cacia Vanilla Oil I added a couple drops of peppermint oil into.