This past January, I bought my first pair of red shoes*.  I quickly realized that I needed more.  Fortunately, I love to shop for a bargain.  With spring fully in gear, I have hunted and gathered my way to a few pairs.  For casual days, I love them with faded ankle-length skinny jeans.  And red lips.

The Red Shoes: I am insanely in love with my pointy-toe red flats and ankle boots (not pictured) from Frye.  The only eco-fashion thing I can say about them is they last for freaking ever.  Not cheap, but if you are patient you can find them on sale.  And this pair of Converse canvas sneakers does the red shoe thing in playground casual (more support than the standard Chucks, too).

The Skinny Jeans: I’ve long been a Levi’s kind of gal, but I recently discovered Henry & Belle jeans.  They make super soft, super stretchy, comfortable jeans, in lots of colors and styles.  And – bonus – a portion of every sale goes to a variety of good causes, such as Every Mother Counts and Girls on the Run.  I like to order from Melange, which has great sales, a cute blog, free shipping and superior customer service.  To top those jeans, they also carry great organic cotton brands like Prairie Underground and Raw Earth Wild Sky.

The Red Lips: Still working for spring are my fall reds – RMS Diabolique and Ilia Femme Fatale.  I’ve also recently discovered Alima Pure’s Lip Tints, which are immense chocolately improvements on the old peppermint formula.  I can’t tolerate peppermint on my lips, so I was thrilled to try the new tints.  Cranberry is a warm burgundy that really has enough pigment to wear as a lipstick, though it feels like a balm.  The glossier Holly Berry is a spiced rose that is super subtle.  I’m loving wearing the RMS or Ilia pressed into well-moisturized lips like a stain, with one of the Alima tints over as a balm.  I generally like to put a balm over my lipstick, but sometimes a clear balm kind of sucks the color away.  These tints are a perfect topper, and can handle a touch-up on their own when I don’t have time for a full reapplication.

Just some Ilia illuminator around my eyes and RMS bronzer on my cheeks finishes my barely-made-up spring face.

One More Thing: Those exposed ankles are going to need some glow…easily provided by my old favorite, May Lindstrom’s The Good Stuff, and my new favorite, Yuli’s Harmony.  Or, try one of my other favorite body oils.

What are your spring inspirations?

*actually, my first was a pair of Adidas sneakers in the mid-nineties, but I’m not counting that right now

Name: Rebecca

Age: 45

Where I live: Oakland, CA (across the Bay from San Francisco)

My relationship with makeup: Reformed.  I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with makeup since puberty.  I grew up wishing I could wear makeup like my older sisters did, but I wasn’t allowed until I was sixteen.  For a while, I would sneak my sisters’ old and discarded eye makeup and blushes (gross, and so not the right shades for me) and apply them on the school bus, wiping it all off on the way home.  When I was finally allowed to wear makeup, I was in a phase of not wearing much.  I went back and forth several times over the years, with periods of wearing or not wearing color.  But I always had some type of concealer.  For many years, I only used makeup to cover up my real or perceived imperfections.  As if the circles under my eyes or big zits were less noticeable with makeup.  When I discovered mineral makeup in my thirties things took a positive turn, and I was also taking better care of myself, which showed in my skin.  Then when I went clean a few years ago, I learned to love makeup.  I still use it partly for concealing, but mostly for enhancing now.

I have a ton of stuff, though I don’t wear much all at once.  I always use a light, protective base.  Color wise, I’ve been doing two looks lately:

1.  Illuminator for lashes, lids, cheekbones, and just a touch under the eye, plus cheek and lip color.

2.  Mascara, illuminator for eyes and cheeks (sometimes it’s good to embrace the pale), and maybe a subtle lip color.

The products:

Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular CC Cream: Daily SPF is critical in my skin brightening routine, and CC in Natural Glow is perfection for me.

Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation: I apply this under eyes, on lids, and any blemishes with their Concealer Brush.  It covers perfectly, and only requires a light touch to do its job, which means no creasing.  My shade is Olive 1, and they have such a variety I think anyone could find a match.

DIY Finishing Powder: Equal parts Alima foundation, kaolin clay, arrowroot powder, and rice powder applied all over (including around eyes) with a flat kabuki brush gives a nice finish, retaining the look of bare skin that’s neither dry nor oily.

RMS unpowder: The teensiest bit of this gem applied to just my forehead with a Lili Lolo baby buki brush means absolutely no excess shine, ever.  No matter what.  I’m pretty dry at my age, so I wouldn’t use this on the rest of my face, but I highly recommend experimenting with this if shine is ever an issue for you.

Ilia Illuminator: Polka Dots & Moonbeams is my standard, but the slightly more golden, limited edition Cosmic Dancer is lighting up my eyes and cheekbones lately.  The Ilia illuminators are perfect for lashes on no mascara days.

RMS Buriti Bronzer and RMS Lip-to-Cheek in Diabolique: I am obsessed with these right now.  They compliment each other and also layer amazingly well (either work on cheeks or lips).  I have never been into bronzers, but when Buriti launched I had to try it.  On cheeks, it doesn’t look like I’m faking a tan, just like I’m not my typical True Blood vampire pale.  On lips, it is the perfect nude-ish, almost-shimmer shade.  And I love Diabolique so much, I had to buy a second jar since it’s a limited edition.  It’s my current favorite for a bolder lip.  I find the color stays on cheeks the full day when layered over Buriti, otherwise it will fade somewhat over the course of the day, as with most cream blush.

Ilia mascaras: I was so excited about Ilia’s mascaras when the new phenoxy free formula came out that I was wearing mascara every day for a while (when I had gone months/years without).  It’s fun to change up the color, and Asphalt Jungle and Macao are both lovely.

Afterglow’s Perfecting Under Eye Concealer: I’m experimenting with this a bit lately, using the palest shade, Meringue.  I like just a touch under the eyes, and a light brush of my usual Alima foundation over it.  It’s a good option for brightening without the finish of an illuminator, and I love that it has de-puffing and anti-aging ingredients.

Some long-standing faves that will eventually be back in the rotation are Alima blushes (like Apple Blossom), Juice Beauty’s Irresistable Glow Highlighter and RMS eye shadows (like Karma, Magnetic, and Solar).  My other Ilia lipsticks/conditioners/crayons make occasional appearances too (Ink Pot, Lust For Life, Femme Fatale, Desert Angel, These Days, Come Undone, Dress You Up).  Huh.  I think I may have an addiction there.

What’s in your makeup bag this time of year?

This isn’t the first time these two brands have slugged it out on my vanity.  Remember last summer’s highlighter battle? Now fall brings us a new reason to quibble over who’s more awesome.  A deep berry/burgundy lip is very of-the-moment (or at least it was at the writing of this post).  I was quite excited to see this seasonal trend, because I’m a tough nut when it comes to any color described as red or berry.  Everything wants to be pink on this pale olive gal, and I’m not super fond of pink.  But this time the craze is a shade I can wear.  Look at me, following a trend!  A rare event, indeed.  I snapped up my fave brands’ versions and put them to the test.

Ilia and RMS are always high quality products with sleek packaging, so it was impossible to choose just one to try.  Here’s how they compare (Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner vs. RMS Lip-to-Cheek):

Cost: $24 vs. $36

top: Ilia Lust For Life, bottom: RMS Diabolique

Packaging: Stick vs. Pot

Vegan? Both have bee products, but are otherwise vegan

Scent: Slightly fragranced (vanilla) vs. No discernable scent

For the coconut oil sensitive: None vs. It’s the first ingredient on the list

Color: Sheer yet buildable vs. Less sheer and still buildable

Type of pigment: A bit of synthetic pigment vs. Nothing synthetic

Texture/Finish: A little glossy vs. Velvety/matte, both reasonably moisturizing but a balm is a good idea over or under each

Lasting power: Good vs. A bit better (both wear to a pretty stain)

The verdict?  Well, I’ve changed my mind about three times since I bought them.  There are no losers here.  In the swatch, it looks like Ilia has a bit more berry and RMS a bit more brick going on, but it really depends on the lighting.  They are incredibly close in color, but on my lips, I feel like RMS is a touch more purple.  Right now, I’m more into a matte finish, so RMS Diabolique has the edge.  I think the RMS is also somewhat more versatile.  The tiniest bit applied looks quite different from when it’s layered.  I prefer both colors when pressed into the lips rather than swiped on.  The RMS pot is convenient for this, but, hey, nobody’s stopping you from using your finger or a lip brush with Ilia’s stick.

Have you tried these colors?  Is another brand helping you work this trend?

Is there anything more exciting than discovering a new product you love?

The other day Siobhan, Susannah and I were talking about this electrifying process and we came to the conclusion that NMDL basically lives and breathes on discovering new brands and products. Even if we also like to write about random stuff like why meditation is going to make you a better person, and how chia seeds absolutely can go in your coffee…  At the end of the day product recommendations are the bones of what we do.

Which is great because since writing the book the natch beauty biz has been BOOMING. I have more boxes sitting in my entrance than I know what to do with. It drives my husband up a wall, but I don’t even like opening them if I’m not ready to: smell, read ingredients, and decide if the product is worth of trying. Many don’t even make it past the nose test!

When I think about it, it’s actually kind of wild how many of our staples are still from the original tribe (you know, RMS, Kahina, Intelligent Nutrients…) There’s a special voodoo to creating the perfect product, something like creating the perfect dish—and it’s just not everyone who can cook. (Bless your hearts for trying, though.) Don’t even get us started on packaging.

Not that we haven’t made new incredible discoveries since then. I mean, Studio 78, Ilia, Acure, Marie Veronique Organics, and May Lindstrom (the last, PS, is cooking up a new product right now that you guys are gonna lose your freaking minds over).

But who else is out there, that we just don’t know about yet? Where’s the next Rosemarie Swift, making magic in her kitchen, or already selling her product overseas… We must find her!

That’s where you come in. So, two questions:

1. Other than popping by here, what’s your product discovery process?Friends, other blogs, a store in your city?

2. What products have you found and love—in any category—that we just aren’t talking about here? We take a lot of joy in introducing smaller brands to more folks, so don’t keep secrets.

Or maybe, gasp, you are making your own beauty products? Tell us about them, or email us and send some samples through…

I promise the boxes always get opened eventually! x

Meet Greta. She has a great 99% clean routine, and a holy-grail cleanser we have yet to try! (Suti, anyone?) But getting rid of dandruff is tricky without Head&Shoulders—any clean alternatives?

Hallo ladies!

Name: Greta

Age: 28

Hometown: mid-state, Michigan

Current Weather: It’s summatime weather, which means humidity and chances of both sun and rain.

Hair: Shoulder length and light brown with natural red highlights. It’s fine but thick, naturally straight, and dandruff-y.

Skin: Fair, freckled, and oily in my t-zone. Breakouts are rare – only when I’m hormonal. That wasn’t always the case. I used to have major skin problems and went through years of trial and error with products. The oil cleansing method truly saved my skin.

Starlet: Greta Garbo (okay maybe I’m biased, but she was stunning!)

Before the Shower…

Since the weather has warmed up, I’ve taken to showering at night before bed. I’ve fallen out of my dry brushing habit, so that usually happens once a week. Otherwise, I start by applying a dab of Suti’s Organic Facial Cleanser, and massaging it into my face. I went through Pai Organics’s and Stark Skincare’s cleansers (both made me break out) before I found Suti, and I think this is my holy grail.

In the Shower…

With my face still moist from the cleanser, I step into the shower and let the steam get into my pores while I wash up. I have dandruff, and it’s been very hard for me to transition out of dirty hair products and still be flake-free. I can’t stand the smell of apple cider vinegar, so I only do a rinse but once per week. Right now I’m using Desert Essence Fragrance Free shampoo/conditioner, but it’s heavy on my hair. I’d love to find something else that might work!

After I rinse my hair out, I gently scrub my face with a muslin cloth to remove the cleanser, and then finish by washing my pits, lady bits, and feet with a goat’s milk soap I purchased at our local farmer’s market.

Out of the Shower…

Although Stark’s cleanser didn’t work for me, I’m in love with their White Willow Bark toner and Cypress Oil moisturizer. They smell earthy and calming, and I never feel greasy. If I do have a pimple, I usually put a dab of raw honey on it overnight. I’m also experimenting with homemade creams for the bod, and my favorite is a mix of coconut oil, Shea butter, and olive oil. I don’t think I’ll ever buy body butter from a store again, to be honest.

Finishing Touches…

If I’m showering at night, that’s it! Wait for my hair to air-dry, and then I’m off to bed. My morning routine doesn’t vary much, except I skip the Suti cleanser (assuming I did the night prior), and just splash my face with water . I like a little Simply Divine Botanicals Pack Your Bags They’re Leaving! if my eyes are particularly puffy, and if I’ll be outside, I skip the Cypress Oil and use Josie Maran’s SPF40. My makeup routine is easy for day, usually a swipe of RMS Lip 2 Cheek in Promise, Living Nature Eye Pencil, Josie Maran mascara, and SW Basics’ Cocoa Lip Balm. I’m unhappy with the clean eye shadows I’ve tried (Alima, Vapour, and RMS), so my night look is pretty minimal as well!

I am in love with Tsi-la Organics Fiori D’arancio perfume, so that has been my go-to for scents. Lastly, I am also guilty of using dirty deodorant— Pristine Beauty and Soapwalla irritated my pits, so I am staying away from experimenting with deodorant for now. Looking forward to playing with more clean brands in the future though!