Saturday, December 31, 2005

Shea Butter (Skin care)

Shea butter aka Karite or African butter, is one of those wonderful, little known products that has become quite popular in the last few years. It is one of my favorite natural ingredients to use on my skin--it is highly nourishing for the skin, and is great for all skin types (except, perhaps, extremely oily skin). It is very healing for rashes, scars, and blemishes, and forms a breathable barrier on the skin (so helps hold moisture to the skin, without clogging pores). It is safe to apply to sensitive facial skin--in fact, it's wonderful to use all over the body, especially achy feet, as it also relieves stiff muscles. It is also good for wrinkles and stretch marks. Additionally, it provides some sun protection. Since the consistancy is a bit thick, be sure to warm it slightly in your hands before applying. Apply a small amount (1/8 teaspoon) to damp facial skin, or massage into your face with a little hydrosol, aloe, or toner. It can be applied to the body skin directly (no need to warm in hands or apply with hydrosol/aloe/etc, though if your skin is dry, apply directly after shower or bath to seal in moisture).

I discovered Shea Butter about two years ago. It's really balanced out my skin (dehydrated skin, meaning it is finely textured with small pore size like dry skin, but can produce adequate amounts of sebum, and become both flaky/dry and oily). Most shea butter is from the Karite tree (Butyrospermum parkii) in West Africa, though some companies sell shea butter from a second species, Vitellaria nilotica, that grows in East Africa.

Be careful since many companies sell refined shea butter. I like to use unrefined, since it contains more vitamins/nutrients, and many businesses refine it with synthetic solvents (hexane), but some people don't like unrefined since shea has a slight odor (I actually like the natural smell of shea but some people don't). You can get it at health food stores like Whole Foods but many brands sold there are usually refined, and quite pricey. I've found that shea is cheaper online, even with shipping!

I don't really know how to decribe the smell of unrefined shea; it is a fat--like cocoa butter. I can't think of any similiar smell off the top of my head. I don't think it's a bad smell--some people just don't like the smell, similiar to how some people don't like how unrefined cocoa butter smells (chocolate), since it can overpower any other scent in the cream or whatever product. Anyways, though it does have a scent, the smell dissipates a few minutes after you put it on, so there is no lingering smell.

An interesting note: some people use it to cook! It is quite popular as a dairy butter substitute in Japan.

Here are some of my favorite places to buy pure 100% shea.

Mountain Rose Herbs, unrefined/expeller pressed. 100% natural. High quality. They also sell herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, hydrosols, etc. Great price!

Shea Terra Organics sells shea and a whole line of shea and other African products. The shea is 100% natural and organic. They sell refined and unrefined, in a wide range of sizes (including bulk and wholesale). They sell both kinds of species of shea, that are supposed to be different textures. And they also sell shea mixed with essential oils. Their refined shea is not refined with synthetic solvents but through a natural process.

Nature's Gift sell a naturally refined shea, but they also sell an unrefined whipped shea that is supposed to be fluffy, and easy to apply. 100% natural. They also sell essential oils and hydrosols.

Terressentials. Their shea is a bit pricier than the other places I've listed but it is 100% natural and organic. They also have really nice skin care.

Divinity Vegan Natural sells fair-trade shea butter. I haven't tried their pure shea but I have tried their hempchocolate butter (a cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, and hemp oil combination) which is awesome! I use it on my face, and it is wonderful--soaks directly in, and is not greasy at all like some other butter balms I've tried. I apply it with plenty of liquid of course! They are a bit pricey but the small jar of the hempchocolate butter I've used has already lasted me a couple of months and I use it a lot.

And I haven't tried Garden of Wisdom yet, but they sell it too. They also sell all kinds of carrier oils, essential oils, etc. This company has been much posted about on some of the forums I've visited, so I hope to try them soon!

Friday, December 30, 2005

All natural makeup (Makeup and mineral makeup)

I only use 100% natural makeup. Finding truly all natural makeup can be difficult, doubly so if a person is also vegetarian or vegan! For these reasons I began using mineral makeup about a year or so ago, and I love it! Not only is the color range awesome for women of color, but there many brands are also 100% natural. I love how the powder 'foundation' makes my skin look flawless. I have pretty good skin, but do have a touch of red around my nose from old acne scars, and just a tiny amount of powder covers it up and controls my skin from getting oily. A couple of the ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) also provide sun protection, and also help reduce inflammation. Also, since there are no fillers in mineral makeup, you only need to use a little bit of product (MUCH less than you think) to get great coverage, or highly pigmented, rich color. Many companies also offer generous samples at great prices, so it is extremely economical. Note: while many companies are 100% natural and vegetarian/vegan a few ingredients to look out for are:

which is a natural, red colorant derived from the shell of crushed beetles. While this pigment is relatively non-toxic, those who are vegetarian or vegan should read ingredient lists of companies carefully, or contact the company directly, as sometimes mineral pigments are coated with carmine but are not listed as an ingredient. There are also a few people that are severely allergic to it. It is typically in red, pink, and purple products, so read the ingredient lists of these colors.

a synthetic preservative that has found its way into some mineral makeup lines. It has been found to weakly mimic the estrogen hormone, and has been found in cancerous breast tissue. The link to cancer is debatable however, since paraben levels in non-cancerous breast tissue have not been studied. However I tend to avoid them since they are known irritants, and many estrogen-mimicing substances can cause mutantions and feminization in many other species, and all the cosmetics we use get washed down the drain and into our watersheds.

synthetic colors (FD&C colors):

Though synthetic colors may not be listed in every ingredient list, some companies carry micas that have been coated with synthetic color. Some people are highly allergic to these colors, though they have been generally regarded as "safe". I personally stay away from them.

beeswax and lanolin:

I use these natural ingredients but vegans may want to read ingredient lists of lip products to avoid them.

bismuth oxychloride:
some companies (like bare escentuals) use this natural ingredient. Bismuth gives the skin a glowy look; some people find it too shiny and that it emphasizes pores. Many people are also highly allergic to it.

Mineral makeup:

I like Monave and Jlynne Cosmetics which are both woman owned, mineral makeup companies. Both are sold online; however, Monave has its own store in Maryland, and sells wholesale, so you may see this brand in other places.

Both use only all natural ingredients (with the exception of a few synthetic fragrances in some of the soaps that Jlynne sells). Both also do not contain carmine (a color derivative from beetles) and their minerals are not coated with synthetic colors. Their products also do not contain parabens. And they list all of their ingredients on their websites. They both have awesome forums!

I like Jlynne's foundation the best; it is my "holy grail". It is very light/not dense and it NEVER cakes. It comes in around 40 colors. Their eye shadows are very nice and come in wearable shades (good for the day). If you are vegan, all of their lip products contain beeswax and/or lanolin. Their lip creams are more like colored lip balms; they are nice to wear during the day but for night wear, try another brand. Their lip gloss is even sheerer but really moisturizes nicely and are not sticky at all. Great customer service! I recommend subscribing to their newsletter, and joining their birthday list (The company sent me a very generous gift certificate to spend for my birthday).

Monave's foundation is a bit more dense, and their foundation color range more limited. However, since half of their customers are African-American, they make some of the darkest foundations I've seen out of any brand. Their eyeshadows are my absolute favorite; very sparkly and vivid colors. Their lippies are also my favorite; rich, creamy, creamy, color. Best of all, they just switched their lipsticks to a vegan base, and in Feb will began carrying a few more vegan lip products. Their glosses are highly pigmented, even more than their lipsticks, but the glosses are still not vegan though. I really admire the owner, Deb. She really cares about her customers, and what goes into her product. They also sell kits for any inspiring mineral makeup hobbyists!

Another small, woman run mineral makeup company is Cory Cosmetics. She also makes a wide range of all natural skin care, dozens of products. This lady is a formulating fiend!

Mineral makeup application:

If you are not used to applying mineral makeup, it is a bit different than applying regular makeup. Traditionally people use a kubuki or a flat top (made with animal hair) to apply foundation, but since I'm veggie I use either a flocked sponge or a large taklon brush. The flocked sponge is sold at Jlynne (though I found some at Target out of all places!), and the brush I got at my craft store. If I'm not mistaken Monave is looking to offer taklon face brushes in the future. But for those that like the kubuki and flat top, both Monave and Jlynne are cruelty free.

Another lippie choice:

Ok, not mineral makeup, but still herbal, all natural lip balm/tint. Aubrey Organics makes a great vegan product called natural lips available in 3 colors plus clear. I like mixing the pink or red with the brown, which makes a very pretty raison shade. They also make powders (face, blush, and browns for eyes) but they contain silk.

Other natural makeup brands:

Other natural brands you might want to check out are Burt's Bees, Paul Penders, and Miessence.

Some of Burt's Bees makeup contains carmine and beeswax. Their formulas are pretty nice, but their colors (with the exception of their lippies) are somewhat limited. Their foundation is clay and mineral based. I liked their lippies, but I've decided to no longer use them once my current stash runs out, once I discovered exactly what carmine really was!

Paul Penders makes very nice mascara (which is nearly all natural; it contains only 1 synthetic ingredient) and lipstick. They also make concealer, and eye and lip pencils. I've only used their mascara and one lipstick--I liked their mascara but want to find one that is 100% natural. The lipstick texture was nice and it was heavily pigmented but the color didn't look so great on me (which is surprising because I usually can get away with wearing most colors).

I haven't used the Miessence line, but it looks mainly all natural and mostly organic. Some of the products contain beeswax, and since they are from Australia, they are a bit pricey. And their color range is a bit limited.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

PEOs, Chamomile PEO profile, and aromatherapy cleanser (Aromatherapy/skin care)

I recently answered questions about PEO, the uses of blue chamomile essential oil, and how to make an aromatherapy cleanser, and I've decided to post the answers here (with additional added information).

What is PEO?

PEO stands for Pure Essential Oil. Many companies will label their 100% essential oils (non-diluted) as PEO. Read the label carefully if the label only says 'essential oil' or 'essential oil blend' instead of PEO, as 'essential oil' and 'essential oil blend' can mean several things. Sometimes the term 'essential oil' can mean PEO, but at other times it may be essential oils diluted in a carrier oil base. Be sure to read the whole label; if it says 'in jojoba oil' or whatever carrier oil base, it has been diluted and is not a PEO. You may want to buy diluted oils (which make wonderful perfumes, and can be easily added to the bath), but to make your own cosmetic products it is better to buy the PEO. 'Essential oil blend' could be a blend of PEOs (a synergy) or it could be a combination of essential oils and carrier oils (so a ready to wear product). And some essential oils blends may not be 100% natural. Be sure to read labels carefully.

How do I make an aromatherapy cleanser?

Add a total of 6-12 drops of any combination of essential oils per 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of carrier. If you want to make a cleanser you could simply use a good base oil (like olive, jojoba, etc. For dry or normal skin) or castille liquid soap (For all skin types. To make several ounces, dilute the soap with some aloe or hydrosol, and add about 1-3 teaspoons of glycerine or carrier oil if your skin is dry) as a carrier.

What are some of the uses of Blue Chamomile PEO?

Blue aka German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) essential oil is good for reducing inflammation and any sort of skin irritation. It is also good for puffiness from either water retention (make a cream or add to a carrier) and to apply on bug bites (diluted), and is also good for nausea (make a massage oil for this). It is considered a relaxing essential oil; good to use as a massage oil or in the bath (5 drops) to relax at the end of the day. It is good for both dry and oily skins. Like many essential oils is antibacterial. Dilute before use (in a carrier).

I like adding a few drops to eye creams--really reduces puffiness!

Those that are allergic to rag weed may want to avoid this, as it is related.

Here is the oil profile from aromaweb.

Make it yourself holiday gifts (Aromatherapy/skin care/gift giving ideas)

Well it's been a while since I've posted (finals!), and the holidays are already here, but I've decided to post a quick list of fun, fast, and easy last minute handmade gifts. Thanks to my sister for suggesting this idea for a post!

Super holiday, make it yourself list!

-aromatherapy sprays
-Salt scrubs, sugar scrubs
-Bath Salts
-bath fizzies
-bath herbs (herbs for specific skin types and a tiny bit of essential oils)
-homemade lotions and creams
-facial serums
-melt and pour soap
-massage/body or bath oil
-infused herbal oils
-body balm or 'lotion' bars
-lip balm
-solid perfumes (sim to making lip and body balms)
-perfume (oil and alcohol based) (also meditation oils)
-dream pillows
-sachets (I like lavender flowers, scented with lavender and atlas cedarwood essential oils. Repels insects and make your clothes/an area smell great!)
-candle making (Though candle making can be hard, what I like doing is just pouring the wax directly into glass votive holders, so I don't have to use a candle mold).
-herbal tinctures and vinegars

-your own herbal tea blends in beautiful tins
-cookies, brownies
-dinner baskets: in a nice basket put all the ingredients and a recipe for a meal.
-jarred cookie mixes and instructions
-jarred soup mixes and instructions

-I've begun learning bookbinding (making my own journals) which is fun and easy (and the books are very beautiful!)
-knit something!