Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All-Natural Product of the Week: Befine Night Cream

In my ninth month of pregnancy, I am fighting the urge to slather redness-reducing products rich in retinol all over my face for the sake of my unborn baby. I have been SO good this entire pregnancy, switching out my favorite daily moisturizer, Mark For Goodness Face With SPF 30, for a paraben-free alternative from Physicians Formula that has SPF 50 (a bit excessive maybe) AND is tinted, so I can cover up the blemishes brought on by my pregnancy hormones!

But as the seasons change, I find it's necessary for a night cream, and the best all-natural one I've found is this one from Befine, which has rice bran proteins that promise to aid in the formation of collagen and improve elasticity, as well as rice bran oil, which is rich in vitamin E (a great scar/redness reducer) and cocoa, which contains caffeine for increased circulation and a naturally rosier complexion. The formula is light and fragrance-free; the only question is where to purchase. You can pay full price at the Befine Web site for $30, or you could shop around on Amazon, or check out a local discount retailer. I found the stuff at the Cosmetics Market for less than $10, but be warned, what's on their shelves was usually in a warehouse or on someone else's shelf first, so use it right away in case it's close to expiring!

And if anyone knows of a good paraben-free retinol cream, please suggest in the comments section.

Monday, November 15, 2010

All-Natural Product Of The Week: St. Ive's Body Wash

I have had a love affair with St. Ive's Creamy Vanilla Body Wash since I was in high school and am so impressed that this company has evolved with the times and now produces this product without endocrine-disrupting parabens and phthalates. Moreover, it's retained its fabulously subtle vanilla scent and does the job of moisturizing and cleansing at the same time. In an ample-sized 18-ounce bottle for less than $5, this is an absolute steal. My only gripe is they no longer make a companion body lotion!

Where there's good news, there's more: St. Ive's Oatmeal & Shea Butter Body Wash is even more emollient and incredibly soothing. I discovered this body wash last year when my eczema acted up in the fall and I couldn't justify spending twice as much on Aveeno's Active Naturals Body Wash when they have roughly the same ingredients and Aveeno products have never really done the trick for me. With regular use, this cleared up the itchy red patches in no time and kept my skin calm throughout the winter. I haven't tried the body lotion, but based on a few reviews I've seen, it's the body wash bomb. As soon as my vanilla wash runs out, I'll be picking up a bottle of Oatmeal & Shea butter to get me through the winter, and a bottle of that lotion, as well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reddy For Fall

Last fall I was a blushing bride who was all about the Old Hollywood look, replete with bright red lips courtesy of the classic M.A.C red shade Russian Red. But this year, maybe because I'm pregnant, I'm feeling wine-deprived, so I'm opting for darker, bordeaux-inspired lips. I started by switching up my M.A.C shade to Desire, but that was almost too purple-y, so I set out to find something with a bit more ruby in it to complement a brand-new pair of frames. I think I found it!

Let me introduce you to Revlon ColorStay in Divine Port Wine. This creamy, shiny, supple formula is built to last, the shade is gorgeous and it doesn't wash out my pale complexion. Like that search for the perfect pair of jeans, I won't say it's THE shade, but it's pretty darn close to what I envisioned. Plus, it comes close to my discontinued fave, mark gleamstick (pictured above center).

As you know, I'm a mark lover, so let me also recommend something for days when you don't want to feel so made-up ... Totally Balmed SPF 15 Tinted Lip Balm in Totally Hot. The balm looks like a brownish purple in the tube, but is a flattering sheer wash of bordeaux ... without the hangover.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Canyon Ranch Spa: A Transformative Experience

You know sometimes when you hear about a celebrity being checked into Canyon Ranch for "exhaustion"? They have several locations, and luckily, the ranch has opened a spa in the The Venetian in Las Vegas, so when you're exhausted and downtrodden from losing big or drinking too much, or that desert air is taking a toll on your skin, Venetian guests can head downstairs to a truly transformative experience.
I recently traveled to the Vegas with three friends and after a long few days and still no luck at the slots or shaking that jet lag, my pal Jaime (pictured outside the spa) and I paid for a restorative yoga session at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. For a mere $20, we had access to the spa's "Aquavana" facilities, where we were treated like royalty. For as many hours as we wanted to stay, we could lounge in robes in any of the incredibly tranquil sitting areas and enjoy some herbal tea, fresh fruit and a huge selection of magazines. But on top of that, we could take a dip in the chlorine-free hot (and I mean, hot) tub, recline on a heated lounger or rejuvinate in any number of steam/sauna rooms. My personal fave was the Crystal Steam Room. I am a lover of steam rooms and a lover of crystals (not to be associated with Spencer Pratt), so this was right up my alley. In the corner of the room is a giant amethyst geode, and as you lie down on the heated marble benches, you face a ceiling with color-changing lights as steam pours out of a nearby vent and moisturizes and detoxifies your skin. Afterward, you can frolic in the Experiential Rains (watch out for the Caribbean Storm setting!) or cool off in the Igloo. Other truly peaceful spots include the Salt Grotto, which is a much drier but equally relaxing and warm experience, and the Wave Room (it's psychedelic, that's all I'll say). At the end of our sensual journey, we were able to sample the quality goods from their gift shop, such as Elasticity Body Balm and MoroccanOil hair treatment, then shower and style our hair before exiting looking like goddesses. I ended up purchasing the MoraccanOil, and my hair has never looked so good. So long, Alberto VO5 Hot Oil!
For all the money I lost on the slots, it was worth every penny to spend the day at Canyon Ranch.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My New Lip-Gloss Obsession

As a purveyor of mark products, I obviously use them and buy them for myself, too, so when I received an e-mail recently alerting me to a free Juice Gem in "Mango Tango," I figured I'd purchase the new Calm & Composed moisturizer and take advantage of the freebie. The moisturizer is totally soothing and packed with avocado and oat proteins that work well against rosacea and overall redness. That's all well and good, but man do I love this Mango Tango! It looks peach in the tube but goes on like the perfect, beachy shimmery nude. I freakin' love it. And it tastes like mangoes. Nothing could be better. Seriously. It's only $6.50 and will last a long time. Go here and buy it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's In My Eye?

I've mentioned the potential dangers of sulfates and parabens in beauty products, but have you ever wondered what's in the stuff you use to remove your eye makeup? First, you'll notice that their are only a few eye makeup removers on the market, namely Almay and Andrea EyeQs (remember those oily things you used in junior high?), so options are limited. Since their active ingredients are similar, let's review Almay's Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads. Boasting a "botanical blend of aloe, cucumber and green tea to condition, hydrate and soothe skin," it also contains Phenoxyethanol, a bacteria-killing compound, and Methylparaben and Propylparaben, two chemical preservatives that are part of the controversial paraben family, which some studies have associated with breast tumors and endocrine disruption. The mainstream cosmetic industry argues that this stuff is absorbed (through the skin and into your intestines, mind you!) and excreted quickly, so your health risks are minimal, but come on people, let's not play with fire if we have some natural alternatives. Which brings me to...

Physicians Formula Organic Wear. When this line of chemical-free bronzers, makeup removers and mascaras was launched last summer, it was pretty much in every drug store, but I'm noticing the awesome eye makeup remover pads haven't been incorporated into the regular Physicians Formula section since those fancy displays sold out. I asked the company, and no, they haven't been discontinued. But you may find them at your local Target, or you can order them here. The good news is it works, and without harsh chemicals or preservatives. Its ingredient list includes orange fruit water, aloe juice, cucumber extract, soybean extract, olive oil, lemon peel oil, radish root and lavender oil. The only other indredient? Water. Brava! When you're having a tough time removing that sexy smoky eye, you can rest easy knowing you're not rubbing chemicals into your eye with these pads.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Sulfate-Free Life?

You've probably noticed that more and more hair care brands are advertising sulfate-free formulas. Why is that? Sodium lauryl sulfate, the ingredient that produces that foamy, sudsy, ultra "clean" sensation, is the same ingredient (albeit in a higher concentration) found in engine degreasers, floor cleaners and car wash soaps. Although it has not been proven to be carcinogenic (see the American Cancer Society's stance) it is a proven skin irritant and its use in toothpaste has been linked to the development of canker sores (ew!).

Moreover, stylists suggest that it strips your color, so if you just dropped $100 at the salon, it might be worth it to spend a little extra on a sulfate-free, gentler shampoo this month. However, some allegedly sulfate-free products do contain SLS's chemical relative sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Same deal? Possibly worse. When SLS is being converted to SLES, it is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen. Obviously, the levels are low, but if you are a health freak, be sure to check the ingredients of your new shampoo thoroughly before buying. Let's review some of the sulfate-free options out there:

L'Oréal's Everpure line: I tried the Everpure Volume Shampoo, and while the scent is manageable and it does produce a fair amount of suds, volume is not the end result. Try dry, lifeless hair. Plus, the packaging is really hard to deal with. Mine is all mangled. But, this product does get points for color retention. After a month of use, my grays were still at bay. Yay! I give it two-and-a-half stars out of five.

Organix Awakening Mocha Espresso Shampoo: I love chocolate and I love espresso and I love waking up, so you got me, Organix. The scent of this is great, but the results are no better than L'Oreal's Everlifeless. In fact, my husband has complained of "scalp" smell after one day, and the conditioner — no matter how much I squeeze out — does not leave my hair feeling silky as promised. Two stars. (I give mega points to Organix for its Nourishing Coconut Milk Instant Repair Treatment, however. Used once a week in place of regular conditioner, my lustrous hair is back!)

Pureology: If I had more money to spend, I would try Pureology's Superstraight Shampoo with Anti-Fade Complex, which retails at $28. Not a trace of a sulfate, it's super luxurious with oat proteins and sunflower and avocado extracts. It does, however, contain two parabens, which have become beauty industry villains (That's a blog entry for another day). Now, I have tried the Superstraight Condition Revitalisant with Anti-Fade Complex, which is really awesome, but it goes for a whopping $29. Kinda hard to justify, but drugstore.com tends to have sales on it. Some people might find the bitter smell a bit off-putting, but trust me, the end result (especially in humid weather) is worth the few minutes you're rinsing it out. Minus two points for price and parabens, so three stars overall.

Needless to say, I am still on the search for the great sulfate-free shampoo. Post comments below with your success stories, please!