the most basic of basic skincare

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, health | Tags: , | No Comments »

Collection of bottles of health and beauty products

Lately I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my skincare. I’ve been blessed to have good, clear skin for most of my life – good genes from my Mom, there! Pregnancy did a number on my skin, as it does for so many other women. Hormones are a crazy thing. I did what I could to combat breakouts, while steering clear of things with harsh chemicals that might be toxic for me and baby. I can’t say I ever found anything that really did the trick fully, but I weathered the storm and hoped things would clear up postpartum.

Well, for the most part, they did, but I’m noticing that I have to pay a bit more attention to my skincare than I used to. Maybe it’s aging (what? not possible), maybe it’s still hormones, maybe it’s because many days I still look exhausted- whatever it is, I seem to be thinking about it a lot more. Especially because most days, I can’t be bothered to put on much makeup, and quality skincare is key to making that happen while still looking fresh (besides the obvious – a healthy diet, lots of water, exercise and rest!). Plus it’s summer, and who wants to wear makeup in the summer?

I’m trying to find the right balance with what products I’m using, while really wanting to keep it clean and natural. I’ve given things like the oil cleansing method a shot (not a fan). Out of frustration and laziness, I find myself turning to the same old products time and time again, forgetting that there was a reason I stopped using it in the first place. Here are the things I’ve returned to over the years:


Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion was my staple for years. I still use it from time to time, but my new favorite is Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Lotion.  Sometimes, I prefer to just use a bit of organic coconut oil, which works great too.


I keep it simple with Thayer’s Witch Hazel.


Clinique Acne-Solutions Oil Controlling Mask  – I use this once every few weeks I’d say, but I’ve been using it for years! It really works when you need it to, but full of yucky chemicals I’m sure.

Photo 684wearing said mask in 2009


Burt’s Bees Citrus Facial Scrub is a tried and true product for me. I remember last year when Whole Foods and Amazon were both sold out of this product, I panicked. Weeks, months went by – it seemed like it just vanished. I kept checking, and eventually it did come back in stock and I now buy it regularly.


For the longest time I would just use my Mom’s soap, even though I know you shouldn’t use soap on your face. Too drying! Occasionally, I tried a new product, but nothing really stuck. Then, post baby, I decided it was time for a real cleanser. I did a bit of research and settled on Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel. I like that it is free of sulfates, parabens, and phthalates. I also used Clinique’s Acne-Solutions Cleansing Foam, which I received as a sample from Sephora. It worked at clearing up breakouts, but I am not a fan of how drying it is. It is also decidedly NOT chemical-free.

All this to say, I am still not happy with my “routine.” I feel like it’s just a lot of random products that don’t necessarily ‘work’ well together. I am also really wanting to stick with products that are clean, non-toxic, and safe enough to eat. I’ve thought about mixing up my own face scrubs and lotions, but that takes time and time is something I am running short on these days with a 9 month old ankle-biter at my side!

This all came to mind tonight when I stumbled across a line of products that almost seems too good to be true: S.W. Basics of Brooklyn. It’s a small company that makes simple line of skincare products created by Adina Grigore. The thing is, each product only has a handful of ingredients. Check it out:


“At S.W. Basics, we use the simplest possible blends of impeccably sourced, whole ingredients to create products that truly work. Why? Fewer ingredients = less chance for irritation, higher potency, and a smaller overall ecological impact.”

Their cleanser, for example, contains just 3 ingredients: organic rosewater, organic tea tree oil, and organic vegetable glycerin. Their cream contains fairtrade shea butter, organic coconut oil, and organic olive oil. So simple, right?! I admit I instantly thought, “well, that’s so easy – why don’t I just make it myself?” but the truth is I am too lazy, I would probably get the amounts wrong, and it comes in such pretty packaging (recyclable glass bottles and jars). Maybe when I’m older and have ample time, space, and energy.

I also love that they sell reusable cotton rounds – what a simply brilliant idea. I use the old CVS or Kroger brand cotton rounds and have thought before what a waste it is. Their organic, unbleached cotton rounds come in 8 packs with a handy little bag and everything can be tossed in the washer to be reused. It made me think, I have some reusable breast pads (what? these are the things you buy as a new mom) that I don’t use anymore that would do the same thing. So maybe I won’t invest in the cotton rounds, but still, such a genius idea!

I’m thinking I need to give these products a shot. Love their mission, love the simplicity, love that they share little bits & pieces on their website about where their ingredients come from, like this little bit about the man who collects the salt they use in their scrub:

Steve The Salt Man from S.W. Basics on Vimeo.

SO neat.

What do you think, have you tried these products? Do you think you’d like it? I will give them a shot and report back.

my hair, revealed

Posted: November 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: beauty | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

Are you guys ready for some mighty fine Photo Booth pics to start your day off right (unless you’re on the East coast, in which case, are you ready for some Photo Booth pics to eat your lunch with?)

Here are some quick pics of my new hair. My apologies for the lack of care in making sure they look ok – I’m sitting in a gray box under fluorescent lights at the Myspace offices, and on top of that, I don’t really know how to use Photoshop.

Do you like? I am really stoked on it. At first I was worried it was too short, a la Kate Gosslin, but after I woke up and styled it myself, I realized just how much I love it. I think the longer pieces in front are especially fantastic, though not being able to put my hair in a ponytail will be interesting, especially while running (which I’m still doing, M-W-F! More update on that soon.)

Yeah for new hair!

chop chop!

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: beauty | Tags: , | 10 Comments »

One of the most exciting things in life is getting a haircut when you REALLY, REALLY need one. It hasn’t been that long since my last visit to the wonderful and stylish Chika, but I can tell you without hesitation that I am O-V-E-R having long hair for now and am ready to chop chop my locks.

Being a recent bride, it was kind of mandatory that I grow my hair out to give myself plenty of room to get crazy with my wedding hair.  But those days are over. I’m married. I’m busy. Scarf season is here and ponytails are getting super old. I have a LOT of hair, so when it gets to a certain length it turns into less of a “hairstyle” and more of a “lion’s mane.” It requires thinning every couple of months or I’m stuck in Updo Land until I get get myself to Chika. Even my favorite “french braid on one side” updo is looking a little stale these days. I need a change, and I need it now.

So tonight, I get my hair cut.  And I have a feeling I will walk out of the salon feeling like a new woman, with approximately 3lbs less hair.

And as far as how short I go – I’ll let this photo speak for me. It’s a couple of years old, when my Pau Gasol fandom was high and my facial hair in full bloom.

how toxic are your cosmetics?

Posted: August 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, health | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Remember a while back when I posted that great educational animation about cosmetics and how potentially harmful and toxic they can be?  Well, I recently got to discussing hair products with two of my female colleagues (specifically about how often we wash our hair – some of us daily and some of us once or twice a week) and was reminded of this wonderful little cosmetics database I found that can help clue us all in on how chemical-laden our cosmetics are.  I’ve been meaning to share it with you so you can be enlightened.

It’s called Skin Deep, Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics safety database with listings for pretty much every product out there, each with a grade (from 0-10) based on how toxic they are.  It also has a nice ingredients glossary so you can see why that particular product is harmful (it causes cancer, allergies, etc.)

A little experiment

To show you how simple it is to use, let’s check out the toxicity of my favorite tinted moisturizer by Laura Mercier.  Ever since I found this lovely product over a year ago, I have completely depended on it.  I’m not big on foundation, but this is a wonderful lightweight formula that achieves that nice balance between providing even coverage and being non-orangey or cakey.  Needless to say, it’s a staple, and something I use often.  Often enough that I would be thoroughly bummed if it’s full of nasty chemicals seeping through my pores.

So, I typed “Laura Mercier” into the database and found they have 21 product listings for that particular brand, ranging in toxicity from 2-8.  That’s a pretty wide range, now I’m intrigued.  And scared.

Opening up the brand page, I found a list of conditions that could potentially form from use of the ingredients found in Laura Mercier cosmetics – everything from developmental/reproductive issues, cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, and loads of more fun things.  I also saw a nice little summary showing that the brand uses 266 different ingredients, has not signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, and is unknown for using animal testing.  That last one is a big one for me, so I’m already turned off.  But it’s better than being a blatant “yes” – right?

Moving on, I found the specific product I was looking for:  Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20 (non-illuminated, which for some reason, has a lesser score on the toxicity scale).   I was relieved to find the score was a 5, not an 8 like I imagined.  But still – a 5?  On a scale of 1-5, that’s not too great – according to the site, it poses a “moderate hazard.”  That means I’m spending $42 a bottle to put only a “moderate” amount of chemicals on my face most days.  And that’s just one product!

As you can see, it also tells me that 50% of foundations on the market have less toxic chemicals in them, and 56% of moisturizers have lower concerns (it also gives me a link to buy them.  Hah.)  Along with this disheartening information, the product page lists every ingredient, instructions for use, and package warnings, has user reviews (though no one seems to be using this – what a shame, it could be a great place to share safe cosmetics reviews), and more.

Though I’m not sure what my next move is re: Laura Mercier and her moderately hazardous tinted moisturizer, I suggest you all go take a minute to look up the products you use on a daily basis – not just makeup, but cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, the whole lot.  I’m curious, though – what do you think your toxicity score threshold will be? Anything above a 5?  Above a 3?  I’m curious to know how much the average lady would be willing to potentially feed her body in the name of beauty.

That link again:

daily quote: august 20, 2010

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, quotes | Tags: , | No Comments »

“I think that natural beauty is very charismatic . . . I just believe in enhancing who we are rather than trying to manipulate or change it too much.”

- Elle Macpherson

press-on nails making a comeback?

Posted: August 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, fashion | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

I’ve never wanted press-on nails as bad as I do right now…except for maybe when I was in elementary/middle school, a chronic nail-biter with no hopes of getting to a nail salon anytime soon. While discussing Minx and their lack of gorgeous patterns, my cupcake Jacqueline told me about Urban Outfitter’s new line of press-on nails. Sounds trashy, doesn’t it? But look at how cute these are:

Come on, they’re gorgeous! I mean, I’d like a sheet set in that pattern. They also have Chrome and Sparkle patterns. The effects of nail glue on my nails remains to be seen, but at only $8 a pop, it might be worth giving it a try.

What do you think – would you be seen with press-on nails?

the story of cosmetics

Posted: August 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, good, green, health | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Ick! Ick ick ick! Last week, I shared a video about the story of bottled water from Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff project. Her latest video has me squirming and completely grossed out, because it’s about something I (and you, too, probably) use every single day (except on days when I’m just too lazy). I’m talking about MAKEUP. And cosmetics in general, including shampoo.

I like to think of myself as more educated about this than the average person, seeing as my Mother owns her own line of handmade soaps and is always telling me what garbage goes into the national brands we buy at Target and what not. I started washing my face with oils, toning with witch hazel and moisturizing with Avalon organic lavender lotion long ago, but now I’m completely convicted about what else I might be putting on my face that contains potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

This is our SKIN, people – the same skin that sweats and is extremely porous, permeable and absorbent. It works both ways. Our skin pushes stuff out and it pulls stuff in. Maybe we should be thinking a little more about what it is we’re slathering all over it, right?

I feel dirty.

So what do you buy? This is a great place to start, it’s a very long list of cosmetics manufacturers that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. It’s updated frequently, this list is from March 2010. I was very proud to see that my Mom is on this list, by the way!

the never ending nail polish battle

Posted: December 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: beauty | Tags: , | 14 Comments »

I have a confession to make: I can’t wear nail polish for more than 24 hours. I must be extremely anxious, or neurotic, or just a nitpicker, but for whatever reason, I begin picking off the nail polish within 24 hours after applying a fresh coat. Seriously, it’s disgusting. At any given time, there are little pieces of pink or red (or purple or white) polish chips on the ground beneath me. It’s quite sad because I have a thing with OPI nail polishes – I really, really like buying them!

Picture 11
photo: cheshir

Is it just me? Why is it so hard just to LEAVE IT BE? Let it be pretty? The thing is, I’m a perfectionist, so if one gets messed up even a hair, I have to start over. If I’m not in a place with polish remover and polish, I’ll just chip it all away, often tearing at the layers of my nails. It’s really cool to watch (yea right). On top of that, I’m also impatient (though I try). I can’t wait to let it dry because there is always something that is more important – I want to make the bed, fold the laundry, bake something, read something, fluff something, pet something, whatever – and my nails always look crackpipealicious afterwards.

This is just one small part of my lifelong troubled relationship with my nails. My entire childhood I was a dedicated nail-biter, despite repeated efforts by my family (and myself) to get me to stop. Once I even bought that stuff “No Bite” or whatever it is called, from the drugstore. I remember putting it on before going to the county fair and picking it all off (even with my teeth – despite its horrible taste) before I got home. My poor Stepmom Stella even bought me a fancy little manicure kit when I was younger, thinking the right supplies for perfect nails would be incentive enough to stop biting my nails. No dice.

It wasn’t until high school that I grew my nails out for the first time EVER. I remember sitting in Physics class looking at my thumbnail which had grown longer than the tip of my finger. That was a first! I was SO proud. It didn’t last. Eventually, my Mom took me to get acrylics… what a disaster that was. Expensive, and disgusting. After several rounds of “filling,” tearing them off, getting another full set, refilling, and tearing them off again, I vowed never to put that nastiness on my hands again. So gross. I was going to have to learn to have pretty nails on my own.

Eventually, I trained myself to not bite my nails. Willpower was really the only thing I can attribute to my success. Yet I still do it from time to time; I tend to go months alternating between biting and non-biting. It’s a nervous habit, something I do when I’m reading, watching movies, basically anytime I’m not using my hands to do something.

Right now, they’re short but in the process of growing out. I want them to look nice for Christmas and Valentine’s Day and all other days of the year, but still keeping them short because I live on a keyboard what with being a professional blogger and all (I love saying that, btw, I’m a professional blogger. What now?), and having long nails that prohibit me from reaching keys is a bad idea.

Manicures might be an obvious choice, and they do work, matter of fact getting a manicure has been the only thing that keeps a coat of nail polish on my nails for more than 2 days at a time. That being said, I’m a frugalista and I’m not paying $15 (plus tip) for someone to paint my nails when there are starving people half a mile away. That is NOT one of the things I allow myself to splurge on.

Tell me- how do you keep from picking away at your nails?

Surprise, I Have A Fro

Posted: November 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, funny | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

I know you’ve always wondered what I’d look like with a fro, well lucky for you today is the day you’re going to find out.

Photo 713

Photo 715

You love me.

The Oil Cleansing Method

Posted: October 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: beauty, health | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

Today I’m going to talk to you about washing your face with oil.

Last night, I was out shopping for some face moisturizer and chatting on the phone with mi madre, who just so happens to have her own (eco- and animal-friendly) line of homemade soaps/lotions/scrubs/lip balms/linen sprays etc (Deda Notions). Why would I not be using her products you might ask? I ask the same. My Mom is so focused on serving her customers at the farmers market, building her e-commerce enabled website and of course, creating new soaps, she has little time or memory to send products to her only daughter.


But I digress. She told me I should not be using soap on my face, as it only clogs pores and leaves it more dry. I asked her what she recommends I do to remove my makeup and wash the city off my face, and she said, “Wash with olive oil. Like I do.” My Mom is nearing 50 (sorry mama) but still has amazing skin, so I listened. “Really, just olive oil? The same stuff I cook with?” She instructed me to rub about a dime-size drop of the stuff into my skin, let it soak, and then drape a steaming hot (not boiling) washcloth over it for 1-2 minutes until it was cool. It will “steam” the oil out of my pores and easily remove the makeup and grime. Then, re-wet the cloth and gently wipe in an upward facing motion.

So you might be wondering (as I was), “why would you use oil to wash your face?” Isn’t the whole point of washing your face to get RID of oil (hence, Oil-Free skincare products)? Well, for starters, oil dissolves oil, which effectively lifts the bad stuff out while leaving the good oils on your face. It also removes the need for a moisturizer, but still gives you super soft, clean skin. Read the more lengthy, in-depth description here: The Oil Cleansing Method

This wasn’t the first time I had heard of the oil cleansing method, one of my favorite blogs posted a tutorial on it sometime ago. But something about using oils and having to sit still for 2 minutes turned me off. Isn’t that sad? I think I’m so busy that I can’t take a couple minutes to just sit in one place? So I decided to go for it.

I’m using Trader Joe’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but I’m pretty sure there are other methods which include castor oil and/or essential oils (which you can buy in a number of magnificent scents). Last night was my first time using it, so I’ll keep you posted.

Has anyone reading had any (good or bad) experiences with washing their face with oil?