Tabitha James Kraan

I’ve always been picky. Picky about my food, picky about cleanliness, picky about how things are organized, picky about my lip balm. There was span of three years when I refused to wear jeans because they were too “crunchy” (my firework-embellished leggings got a lot of playing time in second grade). My sister still makes fun of me for losing my s when she played too hard with my Barbies and messed up their hair.

My pickiness is ubiquitous, and haircare is no different. I’m more particular about my hair than maybe any other part of me. I’ve always figured that, while I can’t control my hormonal skin and I can’t change the fact that I’m allergic to everything, I CAN make my hair pretty. So, when it comes to color, style or product, my pickiness abounds and my standards are high.

Natural, clean hair products have therefore been a struggle for me. While I knew that these new, toxic-free formulas were better for my hair, I also wasn’t initially finding ones that made my hair look better.

Now, I have my go-tos, products I cling to for dear life, and refuse to sample other formulas, lest I ruin my ‘do for the day. You can therefore understand my hesitation when I got England-based Tabitha James Kraan products in the mail. Pretty packaging, a lovely ingredients list, and a hair perfume (a hair perfume?!) got my attention, but it was the scent that got me to take a leap and actually test the products out.

Each of the three products I tried brings a beautiful blend of essential oils that creates a strong, floral experience that’s long-lasting and girly (for those of you who love a woodsy, unisex scent—these are not for you). I was drawn in by the lack of earthy, granola-y scent you sometimes get with natural brands, and because my nose was pleased, the rest of me was eager to see what other punches TJK was packing.

  1. Dry Shampoo for Fair Hair: If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a dry shampoo. I only wash my tresses twice a week and I need a little root boost and oil control by day three of a shower cycle. TJK’s brand has the sweetest (like literally, sweet) scent I’ve ever smelled in a dry shampoo and it sticks around the whole day. It actually helps make my hair smell fresh and clean—I find myself thinking “What IS that gorgeous scent?” while walking into a meeting, and then realizing that it’s just my dirty hair. The essential oil blend has highlights of rose, geranium and myrrh, while the powder blend contains unique ingredients like tapioca, chestnut, maize powder and chickpea, all to help suck up oil and create a happy, healthy scalp. Bonus: There’s a dark-haired option for purchase, so you brunettes don’t have to worry about a gray sheen ruining your ‘do.
  2. Scented Hair Oil: Ok, so I keep talking about the smell of these products, but I can’tstopwon’tstop because I think that’s what sets them apart. The Scented Hair Oil might seem like just another oil with sea buckthorn, rosehip, argan, safflower and goji berry, but it’s not because it serves way more than one purpose: It’s a deep conditioning treatment, a styling aid and an emergency, my-hair-is-fried-and-I-don’t-have-time-to-fix-it-before-going-to-a-fancy-party first aid kit (yes, I’ve used it for that before, after a day at the beach when my hair got wrecked and I didn’t have time to shower before an event). It restores, rehydrates and protects against heat styling, weather and harsh color treatments (yes, some of us still do dye our locks…).
  3. Hair Perfume: This is definitely my favorite of the three because of its uniqueness. While the other two can certainly be used as hair perfumes, this one is actually intended to scent your hair if, say, you go to a bonfire and don’t want to wash your hair before work the next day (guilty). It’s kind of like a hydrosol for your tresses, with a base of neroli flower water infused with white tea. The lavender, myrrh and bergamot leave a grounded, lasting scent on your strands and give you a little mood boost too. After applying, I sort of want to dramatically toss my head around like in a shampoo commercial, so all the yummy smells are released into the air.

Verdict: I guess my trust can be bought with essential oil blends, because my pickiness was defeated by this haircare trio. Have you heard of or sampled TJK?

INIKA Mineral Eyeshadow in Lightening

My newfound need for beeswax-free (or vegan) cosmetics left a major hole in my makeup routine when I discovered that RMS Beauty’s Living Luminizer was the beeswax-full culprit for tiny whiteheads on the inner corners of my eyes and below my eyebrows. It felt like I was going clean with my beauty routine all over again—I had to start a search for new, holy grail products, and man, does that take TIME.

Then I was introduced to INIKA Cosmetics (which you’ve already heard about here and here… and will be hearing more about in the future, trust me) and much of my bellyaching had to come to a halt. Not only does it boast my latest favorite mineral powder, INIKA has a mineral eyeshadow that is a vegan dupe for RMS’ Living Luminizer, a cult favorite.

Now, it’s not a cream formula, this eyeshadow, but that’s about the only beef I have with it. INIKA’s Mineral Eyeshadow in Lightening is a shimmery, iridescent white powder with all the eye-brightening power of Living Luminizer, but sans beeswax. It’s highly-pigmented, so you need only a teensy amount to make your eyes glow. I was a little worried at first, that it would be too intense for my light-toned skin, but it’s buildable. And that little pot is going to last me for-eva.

INIKA Swatch of Mineral Eyeshadow in Lightening

The color is quite silvery, which can also be said of the Living Luminizer, but it doesn’t appear metallic or gray on skin. I apply it with an eyeshadow brush to the inner corners of my eyes, below my brows and down my nose, and the effect is just a lovely glow, as if I’m candlelit. It stays on all day, sans smudging, and it blends really well with other eyeshadow colors, when I’m in the mood for a more done-up look. It’s kind of perfect for summer, as I’m striving for a more bronzy, glowy look.

I haven’t yet tried this, but I bet you could mix a bit of the powder with shea butter to make a paste that would mimic a cream highlighter. I just have had such success with it as a powder that I haven’t needed to DIY anything.

What do you think, friends? Could there be a light at the end of the Living Luminizer-less tunnel for those of us who need a vegan formula? Do you have other beeswax-free highlighters I need to get my hands on?


Once upon a time I was almost exclusively a savory gal. But these days I have a full-blown sweet tooth, and one thing I love to order if I see it on the menu is a little French number called Pot de Crème. Have you tried it? So good. Like ice cream that hasn’t been frozen, but instead whipped into delicious chocolate submission. I’ve never made it but I know that it’s filled with the usual dessert suspects like cream, egg yolks, and lots of sugar—not exactly your skin superfoods. But that’s about to change.

See, one of my pals from yoga camp is the co-founder of this very awesome company called CaCoCo. It’s all raw, vegan cacao (I know, I’m late to this party), ethically sourced from organic farmers in Ecuador. He recently gifted me a few bags of this so-called Superfood Drinking Chocolate and it basically blew my mind. But why drink chocolate if I can eat it, I wondered. And so was born my simple (and healthy!) take on a Pot de Crème using only 3 ingredients and my blender.

Here’s what you need:

—a powerful blender (I have a vitamix)

—1/3 cup raw cashews

—an avocado

—3/4 cup of CaCoCo drinking chocolate (whichever kind appeals most to you, I like the Global Warrior and Essential Midnight)

Possible extras, depending on your tastes: sea salt and/or sweetener of your choice (sugar, stevia, agave, maple syrup)

Here’s how you make it:

Boil about a cup of water and mix it in the blender with the drinking chocolate. Then add in the cashews and avocado and keep blending (on high) until it’s smooth.  Pour the thick pudding-like mixture it in a mason jar or other glass container and let it cool in the fridge for a few hours. The CaCoCo itself is not overly-sweet (they also use healthier sweeteners like stevia, carob, and coconut nectar) so if you need extra tszuj you can add to taste. And even though there’s already sea salt in there, I like to add a little bit more. I still have that savory tooth!

Traditionally Pot de Crème is served with a little whip cream on top and chocolate sprinkles. If you’re vegan, I suggest you add a little cashew cream or just skip it. I sprinkle some more of the chocolate bits on top which adds an amazing crunch to the super-creamy texture. Good night!

Aside from being delicious this dessert is filled with skin-loving fats and antioxidants galore—and it’s insanely easy to make. I might even like it better than the original!

What’s your dessert jam? Got any great recipes to share?


Could You Be Vegan Before 6?

If Meatless Monday is a baby step, Mark Bittman’s vegan before 6 philosophy might feel more like a leap.

I thought I’d take a break from usual MM fare today to discuss this. Are you familiar with Bittman? He was the New York Times food critic when—after years of eating to his heart’s desire—his doctor told him his heart and the rest of him might be in trouble for it.

Bittman was 35 pounds overweight, had sleep apnea, high cholesterol, climbing blood sugar, and other more general physical discomforts. His doctor suggested he become vegan—which is nothing short of a death sentence for a food critique. But Bittman knew he had to take his health seriously. After giving it some thought he adopted this unusual diet: Before dinner he would only eat unprocessed vegan foods. Once dinner hit though, it was fair game. After just three months, eating vegan before dinner, reversed all of his conditions—and he’s stuck with it since. For six years now.

Bittman, in turn, has also become an advocate for  healthful, conscious consumption. And at the end of the month his VB6 book is coming out with advice and recipes on how to follow this way of eating. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m reticent about food restriction in general, but I think Bittman’s approach has a lot of merit because it does not force you to cut out any one food or category. It also happens to be very close to how I eat already—unless I order in, I almost never eat meat or fish during the day. (Tofu, lentils, veggies and toast are my daytime staples.)

What do you think of the vegan before 6 approach? Is it something you’d consider adopting?

We all have self-imposed limits.  What we’ll eat, what we’ll buy, who we’ll buy it from – these are all areas where we set boundaries for ourselves.  How do we make our choices?  What determines where the boundary is set?  From various angles, issues about this have surfaced on NMDL. I’ve seen controversy over Meatless Mondays, but taking fish oil capsules be accepted without comment.

Reviews of products containing carmine may go by with nary a squeak, but some readers express disgust with emu oil.  I’ve seen people excited about trying products containing phenoxyethanol, yet eschewing products with parabens.

NMDL was established as a place of balance, where safe, organic, and natural are highly valued, but the special occasion use of even the dirtiest mascara or lipstick could be admitted without fear of reprisal.  It’s a place where clean products and companies are celebrated, but it might make sense to use up that giant bottle of dirty shampoo before switching to a clean brand. When I was first coming here, and going through my angrily-throwing-out-dirty-products phase, I thought, why doesn’t everyone just go completely clean?  Why maintain anything in our lives that’s less than clean and safe?  And then it occurred to me, what the heck did that mean?  Everyone has to make decisions about what “clean” means, and perhaps what is clean enough.  I think I threw out my newly clean rose-colored glasses after I’d spent weeks detoxing my family and home, and then someone suggested the inside of my dishwasher may contain BPA.  That was the moment I could have said, eff it all, and given up. But instead I said, okay, I’ll control what I reasonably can, and be happy with that.  Gotta establish those boundaries.

The question of whether animal products can be “clean” or not has come up in comments on several posts lately, so I’ll take a moment to focus there.  First, NMDL has never been a vegan site, though certainly the related thread of sustainability has always been part of the ethos.  Regardless of my personal choices, I do not believe a product must be vegan to be considered clean or appropriate for a glowing review here.

So, let me answer my own question and discuss some of my personal choices and reasoning.  My diet is vegan (except for honey), which is primarily about health but also sustainability.  I figure my eating no animal products balances someone else eating lots.  I don’t have a fundamental problem with people eating sustainably raised animals, and I do buy meat for my family. But even when I ate meat, I tried to minimize the use of animal products in other areas (including in foods that were not mainly about the meat). It just seems wasteful and unnecessary to use animal products in too many places.  I do buy leather shoes for my picky feet/knees/back, though as vegan shoe options get better I may make that switch.  I tend to get extremely cold (in a way that makes me less than functional), so I own several down items, with the newer pieces from companies that source only from food animals.  I now increasingly seek down alternatives.  I buy wool garments from companies whose policies I trust.  I occasionally take medicine, all of which has been animal tested at some point.   I’m not opposed to all animal testing and believe it has its place in medicine, though I wouldn’t buy animal tested cosmetics.  I make sure most items I use, like my work bag, purse, other personal items, and cosmetics and associated tools, are vegan.

So, how do we choose our boundaries?  How does one come to a place where it’s okay to eat fish, but not birds or mammals?  Maybe it seems a little clearer, at least on the surface, to say one would eat only sustainably raised animals.  But does going out to eat with a group, or eating at a friend’s house, or travelling mean that we can ease up on our own rules?  I might eat the chicken of not-entirely-known origin if I were travelling, because I NEED to eat.  But I wouldn’t choose an animal-tested carmine-laden blush if I forgot to pack mine, because I don’t NEED blush.  But what if I’m in my sister’s wedding, and she’s afraid I’ll ruin her wedding pics with my unmascaraed eyes – maybe I’d run to the local drugstore and choose the least offensive they had.  So many things to consider.

I can definitely talk myself into a place where this “clean” thing keeps getting more and more complex.  But let me try to distill it down to its simplest form.  I think that if we just give it conscious thought, if we do our personal best, if we make it an actual, responsible choice and don’t just plod along doing whatever is easiest – perhaps that’s clean living.  Or clean enough, anyway.

What do you think?

PS. Love this book cover.