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
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.
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.
We haven’t posted one of these in a while—and this is a goodie! Here’s why: I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve spent a very pretty penny on whipped shea butter in my day, especially for the ones that smell like vanilla and/or citrus. I’ve also given this as a luxurious gift to friends, and they always love it (boys too). But not once did I think of whipping my own, and scenting it with my favorite essential oils. This is a genius plan for the holidays, and also a great gift if you have any friends who are expecting (though in that case, we suggest going scent-free or just using a bit of vanilla).
Aw, thanks Aileen, and keep spreading the word! It feels like people are starting to catch on. :) Now, who’s gonna whip up some shea?[Note: We still have plenty of great recipes in our inbox, but we want more! Don't forget to send yours.]
Good morning everybody–meet Alex! She tries to steer clear of perfumes, and is a pro with body oils. Right now she’s diggin’ the Yes To line, but she’s also interested in finding other brands, too. Her routine is no-fuss, but fun. Read on!
Name: Alex (la feminine)
Current weather: Unseasonably warm and sunny
Hair: Shoulder length and choppy, contains some lingering blue-green tones from last fall’s impulsive Manic Panic dye job, but otherwise dark brown.
Skin: Not too bad- forehead & nose tend to be slightly on the oily, break-out-y side, cheeks tend to be dry. I get those annoying zitty-things on my upper arms, but my feet/legs/hands tend to be dry.
Favorite star or icon from the past: Louise Brooks- I haven’t actually ever seen her movies, but I love her style.
In the shower…
I usually shower about midday, but I work at home so it’s really “whenever I feel like it.” I start with Giovanni shampoo (which one varies, I like to mix it up) and either Giovanni or YesTo Carrots conditioner. Sometimes I do it backwards, for a change of pace (but I can’t say I’ve noticed a real difference.) I like both brands because they work very much like conventional brands while still being pretty clean- Giovanni even smells delicious without making my head spin (I can’t really tolerate most smells.) YesTo still has a bit of fragrance but it’s so mild I don’t notice it (their shampoo has sulfates though, so watch out for that.) I later up everywhere with a soft natural sponge and Dr. Bronners (I like Eucalyptus, it really clears the sinuses…but I’ve been trying the other varieties too, lately.) For shaving, I use Alba Botanica’s Unscented Very Emollient Cream Shave. Most days I just rinse my face off in the warm water, but every few days (or if I’m broken out or feeling grimy) I use Evan Healy’s Rose Cleansing Milk. Finish off with a pumice stone to the heels.
Outside the shower…
If I used the Cleansing Milk, I skip right to the moisturizing, otherwise I use a little Kiss My Face Antioxidant Toner (I also use it on those little arm bumpies, or sometimes Witch Hazel.) If I’m going to be outside much that day, I use YesTo Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 30 (it’s made for older folks, but it was the only variety with no artificial fragrance- unfortunately it doesn’t absorb very well, probably because of the physical sunscreens. I will probably try another brand when this runs out.) If I’m not going to be outside much, I use Acure Chamomile + Carrot Day Cream, which is great. The rest of my routine is a little greasy, so I save it for nighttime: my all-over body oil is a homemade concoction that is about two thirds grapeseed oil, one third jojoba oil, and a dash of argan oil (grapeseed and argan are Aura Cacia, jojoba is Desert Essence.) About every other night I use pure argan oil on my face and sometimes my arms in hopes of cheering up the pores and stopping breakouts, though to be honest I haven’t noticed it being much better than my body-oil concoction (and it’s expensive and stinky) so once it runs out I might try something else. Immediately before bed, my feet and hands get shea buttered (either pure, or Nubian Heritage with Goat’s Milk and Chai.) I wash my hands a lot so throughout the day I use Weleda Skin Food on them periodically- it’s a little pricy but pretty amazing.
I wear make up very, very (like, VERY) rarely, so I haven’t switched all of it over to clean brands yet. The only things I use regularly are Gabriel Color concealor and YesTo Carrots Berry lip butter. I’ve been sort of moving away from the YesTo products but I do love this stuff- it’s mostly coconut oil and it works (and smells and tastes) great. The only “perfume” I can tolerate is a little bit of vanilla mixed with jojoba oil. I haven’t found a clean deodorant that satisfies my intense desire not to sweat yet, so I’m still using an unscented conventional super-toxic brand :-( If I’m just staying at home all day, though, I’ll often skip it. I jumped on the nailpolish bandwagon last summer and have amassed quite a collection- I usually go for Zoya or OPI or another 3 (or 4)-free brand, though even then I have to paint ‘em outside because of the reek. I use Bee Naturals cuticle and nail oil to keep them from drying out. No hair products, I’m a wash & go kind of gal (on the rare occasion that I color it, I try to veer towards the less damaging semi-permanent conditioner-based stuff. Unfortunately it’s really hard to find natural colors. Henna & indigo may be in my future.)
Anybody else thinking henna this summer?
Meet lovely Luna. She has lived in both the US and China, and currently calls the latter home. She does an amazing job at keeping her beauty products green by bringing them over when she travels back to the US. Read on for her efficient but inventive routine…
Current Weather: Beijing at its best! Warm, Spring breeze, Sunny
Hair: Black, straight, shoulder length – can’t hold a curl for longer than 10 minutes
Skin: Best defined as complicated: definitely combination, acne prone, dry on cheeks, oily around forehead and T-zones. Beijing water is very hard and the climate is dry which isn’t good for skin that is prone to breakouts since many moisturizers can clog my pores but not using any will leave my skin parched!
Favorite star/icon from the past: Anna May Wong
In China there isn’t a lot of focus on “clean” beauty products. There are some basic drug store staple brands like L’oreal and Nivea and their Chinese counterparts. On the other spectrum, the luxury skincare market is dominated by brands such as SKII, Lancome, Amorepacific, Clarins, and some Chinese ones like Yue-Sai. There’s really nothing in between and there are definitely no smaller, clean, indie labels like in the US. Sephora opened here a few years ago and some “cleaner” brands have started to trickle in such as Boscia and Ren. I grew up in the US and am now back in China working for a multinational corporation. I usually come to the US about three or four times a year for work and this is when I stock up on my beauty products. I would describe myself as loyal but adventurous – I have my “tried and true” products that I MUST restock every trip and then there are others I learn about through web research (such as your site!).
I usually start my day by just washing my face and doing my makeup, and save showering for night, so I will frame this as morning routine, makeup, night time.
In the morning I usually just wash my face with lukewarm water. If I want to really clear my skin for a meeting at work, I will use a cleanser – my favorite is Intelligent Nutrients Anti-Aging Cleanser. It smells a little strong but it’s nothing I can’t handle. After that I use Dr.Alkaitis Organic Herbal Toner, followed by 100% Pure Argan Oil Hydration SPF 30 (which I learned about from your site!). This combination keeps my skin very balanced and prepared for whatever Beijing throws my way: pollution, smog, etc.
I’m not a huge makeup girl so it doesn’t take me very long in the morning to get ready. Since I don’t use that much product, I have no problem with spending more for high quality products. I use Suki tinted moisturizer and Vapour Organic Aura blush in Courtesan which really wakes up my face. I use Lancome mascara because I can’t find a natural one that doesn’t give me racoon eyes by noon. For lips I use either raw shea butter or Dr. Bronner’s Naked lip balms, the one without a scent. If I’m feeling like wearing color, I’ll rotate between any of the Kjaer Weis Lip Tints or Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner colors I have.
Before the shower, I take my makeup off with sweet almond oil or jojoba depending on which one I have available and then I dry brush myself.
I try to take the quickest showers possible because the water is really not ideal. You can’t drink it straight from the tap so I don’t really like to marinate in it at night. I wash my face with Intelligent Nutrients Anti-Aging Cleanser and use Dr. Bronner’s baby liquid castile soap for my bits and that’s it. My showers are literally 3 minutes long and if I wash my hair that takes it to about 8 minutes. I only shampoo my hair once a week and I use Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic shampoo. No conditioner. No blow dryer. My hair is not high maintenance at all so I’m totally grateful for that.
Out of the shower…
I tone again with Dr. Alkaitis and then do a few drops of YULI Skincare’s M.E. Skin Fuel serum on my face which is light but still hydrating. I never do anything thick or creme-like at night because I feel like that hinders with my skin’s ability to renew and push out impurities overnight. If I’ve washed my hair than I rub a few drops of the Skin Fuel over my head and comb through.
Thanks, Luna! Is there anyone who has any experience with naturals in China or elsewhere in Asia? If so, maybe you can suggest some new local brands?
OK folks, sorry for not getting to this sooner! Without further ado, I will now review my other favorite conditioner—the one that costs 10 bucks instead of a whopping (and, in my opinion, worthwhile) $28. Drumroll please…
It’s Alaffia’s Virgin Coconut and Shea Daily Conditioner! I’ve tried most of the Alaffia conditioners except the one for curly hair (though I bet it would be great for air-drying my waves), and while I think they’re all good enough, this is the only one I will purchase over and over again when I run out. I think it’s just fantastic.
I also love the company. I met Alaffia’s wonderful founder Olowo-n’djo Tchala last year, thanks to the natural makeup artist Jessa Blades, and knowing what I do about how he runs his business, and how much he gives back to Togo, where the shea is from, I feel great every time I buy one of his products. (I’d also like to give a quick shout out to the insanely rich shea butter cream, too, which soothed my friend’s horrible sunburn this summer after a day at the beach. It even prevented his skin from peeling altogether—and it was quite the sunburn.)
Anyway, I’d put off trying the daily conditioner because I assumed something “daily” would be really light on moisture. Not the case. We can thank the certified-fair-trade shea and the hair-friendly coconut oil for the insanely moisturized, high-shine hair I get when I use this puppy. Moisturized and bouncy. The butters don’t weigh down my rather heavy hair, which is miraculous, as far as I’m concerned.
I also like the smell better than the others. The one that smells like minty coffee is refreshing but the smell kind of went sour on my hair over the course of the day, and the honey conditioner felt a little perfumey for my taste. This one, however, smells juuuuust right to me.
Best of all it seems to work on all hair types. A girlfriend with long, thin, wavy brown hair likes it a lot, and so does an African American guy I know with short extremely tight curls. Could it be that it just works for everyone? Mais oui!
Let us know your favorite natural conditioners in the comments, and if you’ve tried any of Alaffia’s.