Thursday, August 31, 2006

Assumptions of Asian Beauty (Asian/Asian American Issues)

I know I said I'd be away but just wanted to post today (hey, it's the beginning of the semester, so I'm not super crazy-busy yet!)

I was just on a forum, and someone basically posted 'why do asians try to look non-asian/caucasian: getting surgury on their eyelids, coloring their hair, and bleaching their skin'. That post kind of annoyed me, because a lot of people assume that just because an Asian person colors their hair or has the double lids or has light skin or who don't have perfectly straight hair is trying to look caucasian. True, some people may be trying to, but just because a person looks a certain way or chooses to alter their appearance does not neccessary mean that they hate the way they look and are trying to look like someone else.

As many of you know, I am of Asian descent: Chinese-American actually, meaning my family is originally from China, but I am an American (another assumption a lot people make is that people of Asian descent can't be Americans as well. I guess that they don't know that it was a Chinese-American who won the right in the late 1800s that that if you're born on U.S. land, you are an American citizen. But that is a post for another day).

Growing up I had very, very dark brown almost black hair (not true black), and it's only been within the last few years it's been true black (since I've started using natural cosmetics. I don't know if it's because natural cosmetics don't dry my hair as much, or that I just don't spend as much time in the sun or what; anyways it's black now). Also I was born with curly hair, which straightened out as I grew up. Nowadays I prefer my natural hair color, but in college (eight years ago) I did dye red hairlights in my hair twice, because I thought it was pretty and interesting.

I was born with double lids, similar to everyone else in my family (both my dad's and mom's side). Many people don't know this, but actually about 25% of Asians naturally have double lids.

I have light-medium skin; not as pale as some Asians are, but not as dark as others, but I can get pretty light in the winter time.

Unlike what some people assume, I am not trying to look caucasian, it's just the way I look/was born. I am proud of my Chinese heritage! I just wish some people didn't assume so much about other people.

Craft Mineral Makeup! (Mineral Makeup)

I've been experimenting with crafting mineral makeup for the last few months. I haven't tried making any foundation yet, but I have made eye shadows galore (I've made at least 8 different shades of gold eye shadow!), a couple of blushes (I usually don't wear blush so this is a milestone for me!), and even a few lippies (I made the color but used an all natural pre-made base; plan on making my own base soon).

There are only three mineral makeup books that I know of (I am a natural cosmetic book fanatic, and I've been looking for books on mineral makeup but I haven't found that many).

The first one is Creative Faces by Maxine Nelson. I borrowed this from the library a while back, and I personally didn't like it very much. There was a section on ingredients but most of their recipes for eyes and foundation were based on talc and some (like the lippies) used F D&C colors (ingredients I avoid). Also the instructions were not that specific; they were basically "take a pinch of this" and mix it with a teaspoon of that etc, which is very vague (when crafting you definitely need to use a gram scale). But you may get some basic info from it.

The second one is Recipes for Makeup by Karen Bombeli. I have not read this one, but the amazon reviews are pretty bad (there is apparantly a lot of spelling mistakes). Also I've seen the website of the author's company and many of her recipes have a lot of synthetics that I avoid (more so than the book above).

The last one is from Coastal Scents: Mineral Makeup Secrets Revealed (online book). I don't have this either but someone e-mailed me a review about this book, and it also contains some ingredients I avoid (but still primarily natural), and apparantly contains just basic information.

I personally learned more about minerals from Deb (owner of Monave and Monave's MMU kits (I have two of them). Once a year, Deb hosts and teaches an all day conference on making MMU (the only person I am aware of that teaches how to craft MMU). I haven't taken the seminars but I've e-mailed her many questions about mineral makeup crafting, and she has been very friendly and helpful. She is awesome! In addition to the kits she sells individual loose pigments and micas. Deb is also working on a book--I told her I'd be one of the first ones in line to buy it if she ever finishes it!

Other companies that sell loose micas, pigments, and kits are Tkb Trading and Coastal Scents. Tbktrading sells so many different choices! If you are concerned about using certain ingredients be sure to read the ingredients for every mica and pigment etc you buy. Tkb also has a great blog on minerals!

Gram scales (to weigh the minerals; to keep recipes accurate) or any scales for that matter can be purchased at Oldwill Knott Scales. Monave sells mini grinders, or you can use a blender to mix (please purchase a separate blender for your cosmetics; don't use the same one that you blend food in).

Tips on crafting:

Unblended colored micas are very intense and usually need to be mixed with a base. Though the straight unblended colored micas also make great intense eyeliners and eyeshadows, especially wetlined or foiled!

I suggest trying a variety of different bases (micas), since all of them will make the colored micas look different. To make things lighter: You can mix the colored micas with serecite (uncolored mica; it will make your blends more matte), or with the splendids/highlights/starlights (which are the refraction micas; which look like white powders but in the light have a 'highlight' color; comes in several colors), or silver fine (a whitish silver color). To make things darker: black mica, the blackstars (which are dark/black but with different tones; they are coated with iron oxides; comes in several colors). OR try mixing the colored micas together.

The shades look way different depending on what you mix with what. As an experiment I took one colored mica and then mixed it with each of the other micas I mentioned. The end results looked so different, even if I started with the same colored mica!

You can also try bases/blends of bismuth (if you're not allergic), titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and magnesium stearate (avoid this if you are vegetarian).

Don't mix the colored micas for too long, as over blending may damage the mica particles.

If you use pure iron oxides (to make matte shades), they need to be mixed for much longer than the colored micas, and you don't need to use as much of them.

Also try playing with the ratios too!

Micas in creams/lotions; how to make sparkly creams/lotions:

I've read (from Monave) that the easiest micas to use in a product are probably the splendids which refract light and come in a variety of colors: blue, violet, red, gold, green (in the jar they look like a white powder but if you move them in the light or wet them you can see their different colors).

You will definitely need to use either a gum or gel to thicken your lotion (or make a cream which are thicker than lotions), to prevent the micas from sinking (or you could just shake gently).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ecological Footprint (Environmental Information)

Earthday Network and Redefining Process have a great calculator in which you can calculate your ecological footprint. Basically an ecological footprint is the amount of acreage that is neccessary to support a person's life style. Worldwide, there is only about 4.5 acres of land available per person. Sadly the average American ecological footprint is 24 acres per person, which means that it would take at least 5.3 planet Earths to support the human population if everyone consumed as much as we do.

I love this calculator, however, though it is a pretty good assessment, it is only an estimate and doesn't take in account factors as recycling, using more ecological friendly products, and only generalizes how much energy/waste a person really consumes (some people consume less and some people more). However, it is a good indicator that many people, especially those that live in western countries, are consuming much more than the planet can support. Not to mention, this leaves little resources for other species!

Though it is pretty sad how much we actually consume, there are many things we can do to reduce our ecological footprints. First, eat more locally grown, unprocessed, organic, and vegetarian meals. Locally grown foods are more eco-friendly because they are not transported over long distances (so less fuel and pollution) and they also support the local economy. Unprocessed, organic, and vegetarian meals are not only healthier (studies have shown organic foods contain more vitamins than conventional foods), but also more ecofriendly. For example, it takes about 12-16 lbs of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to make 1 lb of beef. Also, try to drive less, car pool, take public transportation, buy a more fuel effecient vehicle, or take a few minutes to plan your activities to reduce pollution/emissions (make 1 trip instead of 2). Use more energy effiecient products--it's not only better for the planet but friendier for the wallet too. Also don't forget to reduce (probably the most important), reuse, and recycle, and, when you can, use ecofriendly products! :)

Though I think it'd be awesome if everyone suddenly became veggie and took public transportation, I realize that it may not be possible or practicable in some instances for people to do so. Being more ecological minded doesn't mean you have to become "new-agey" and accept every new eco-trend you hear about (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that ;) ), but it's about making good choices, taking responsibility for human actions, thinking about the future, and doing what you can.

Making changes can be quite overwhelming, especially with all the conflicting information that's out there. My advice: start slow and do what you can! For example, if you want to eat better, are concerned with the treatment of animals, or have moral or spiritual concerns with eating meat, but find the thought of becoming pure veggie daunting, you can start slowly. One idea: replace a few meals (not all) with some veggie meals. Eating less meat and more veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains is not only healthier, but helps prevent against many diseases (due to the reduction of fats, and the increased source of vitamins and anti-oxidants). Instead of eating burgers for lunch, try an awesome veggie burger or pizza. If you are feeling adventurist, try a tasty tofu stir fry or a delicious Indian Curry. Yum!

Though you may not be able to everything you've heard about to reduce pollution and your ecological footprint, try to do what you can. Every step you do, is a closer step towards a more sustainable and happier planet :)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Minor Wounds and Scars/First Aid (Natural Alternative Medicine/Aromatherapy)

What essential oils can I use on minor wounds and scraps (for first aid)?

Many essential oils can be used to clean up/heal wounds (antibacterial and healing; first aid) including tea tree, lavender, and chamomile (which are the most often recommended by aromatherapists) but other good essential oils include: bergamot, helichrysum, geranium, eucalyptus, frankincense, myrrh, pathcholi, and lemon. Aloe is also good. To clean the skin, you can use the essential oils by blending with aloe or diluted apple cider vinegar (1 part water to 1 part acv). Use a 2% concentration of essential oils (add 12 drops of the essential oil blend per 1 ounce of acv or aloe). After cleaning apply an ointment/balm/salve (a carrier oil thickened with a little beeswax, or if you don't have beeswax, just use a carrier oil. Make a 2% concentration of essential oils) and cover with gauze. Natural remedies may take longer than conventional remedies to heal, but I've always found them to heal skin better.

For scarring, an excellent all natural remedy is helichyrsum essential oil and rose hip seed oil (12 drops of helichyrsum in 1 ounce of rosehip seed oil). This blend has been recommended by several aromatherapists and there have been many studies done in south america on this combination. For a review/info on the studies click here, and for reviews of this combination from Nature's Gift click here. I suggest making this combination yourself (since it is easy to make and also less expensive), but if you don't want to, you can buy it premade at Nature's Gift (at a 10% concetration, so you'll still have to dilute it a bit with another carrier oil).

Friday, August 18, 2006

List of Animal Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics (Natural Skin Care/Vegetarian)

If you're vegetarian, vegan, or just want to use cruelty free cosmetics, there may be some ingredients in cosmetics you may want to avoid. Here is a list of animal ingredients that I avoid, or am in the process of eliminating.

-emu oil (from a bird)
-carmine aka cochineal (a red colorant from beetles used in cosmetics and foods; many makeup companies use micas that have been coated with carmine, or use this in red/purple colored makeup)
-elastin (from cows)
-lactalbumin (milk protein)
-hyaluronic acid (usually from rooster)
-makeup brushes (many are made from animal hair; good alternative: taklon, which is a synthetic bristle)
-lanolin/lanolin alcohol/lanolin oil (from sheep wool)

Ingredients in perfumes:

-musk (from musk deer; still used in some perfumes)
-civet (still used in some areas/countries)
-ambergris (from sperm whale; not really used; but apparantly still possible to get but thankfully very hard to find)
-castereum (from beaver)

Ingredients that can be from animal or plant:
-lecithin (can be from egg yolk; can also be from soy)
-squalene (can be from sharks; can also be from olives)
-stearic acid/stearyl alcohol (can be from animal fat. can also be from vegetable fat)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blog update

Hi everyone,

I am trying to complete uncompleted posts (posts that I started but never finished) in the next few days. I had a really, really long (super long--even for me) post on all natural shampoos and conditioners that I was working on, but blogger ate my post! (It's eaten a lot of my uncompleted posts and rough drafts :( ). I just posted a bit on all natural shampoos on one forum so probably will do a shorter post (based on that bit) on all natural shampoos and conditioners rather than trying to rewrite the longer one. I will also post more FAQ type questions, and hopefully add some links within the next couple of weeks.


Aromatherapy Resources (Aromatherapy)

Here is a list of some of my favorite aromatherapy books. There are many others that I've read and love but these are some of the best in the subject in my opinion. For some more book reviews and online resources, check out my Natural Skin Care and Aromatherapy Books and Resources Archives links. Note: be sure to reference at least three different books before using an essential oil, as not all books have the same information on the oil's properties, not all essential oils are safe to use, and some essential oils are not safe to use in certain instances (like pregnancy, or in children or the elderly, or those with certain medical conditions).

A very good book on essential oil profiles is:
Jeanne Rose: 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. I love this book--it lists many of the rarer essential oils that aren't usually described in other books.

Jeanne Rose's "Aromatherapy book: applications and inhalations" also has good decriptions and charts on usages. There aren't too many recipes in this one, but it has a lot of interesting historical notes, and her charts (which were compiled along with the help of another noted aromatherapist: Victoria Edwards) are among the first things I look at when concocting a new blend.

I use Jeanne Rose's books the most for referencing essential oil properties (but I always use them along with others like Tisserand's safety book, see below).

Good beginner books:
Aromatherapy for dummies by Kathi Keville. Highly recommended if you are completely new to essential oils. I love the dummy guides--they really are helpful and often written by experts in the field--and this book clearly explains most of the uses of essential oils. There are some recipes, but perhaps not as many as other books. Good essential oil profiles and also has a section on the medicinal uses in the back of the book. She really knows her herbs (both aromatherapy and herbalism!)

Another good one for beginners is:
Aromatherapy: a complete guide by Kathi Keville and Mindy Green. Maybe a little more advanced than the dummies guide but still great for beginners and also more advanced students. This one has more recipes than the dummies guide (skin care and medicinal uses).

Victoria Edwards has a wonderful book called "Aromatherapy companion" which goes over many aspects of aromatherapy, from some profiles to chemical components to cosmetic to medicinal to spiritual uses. Lots of recipes. She has some interesting blends!

I love the Valerie Worwood books--I have learned so much from them; she goes over a lot of topics not found in other books. Definitely for more advanced students but also good for beginners. "The complete book of essential oils and aromatherapy" is considered one of the 'bibles' of aromatherapy. Not really many oil profiles (get Rose's or Tisserand's books for that), but this book has many recipes and suggestions on a very wide range of medicinal and cosmetic uses of essential oils. I love this book. If I am making any medicinal concoctions, this is one of the first I reach for to see what essential oils are good for whcih conditions. For people with children, there is a very good section on essential oils and children (there are also great sections on women, men, and the elderly as well).

Robert Tisserand's book "Art of Aromatherapy" is a classic (first published in 1978). This book is what spured aromatherapy's popularity in England, and later the U.S. There are only a few recipes but this book has good profiles and also background info on how essential oils work. Tisserand has done many scientific studies on essential oils.
Other books by him: "To tend and heal the body" which contains many case studies from many prominent aromatherapists, and my favorite by Tisserand's and Balacs' "Essential oil safety" which contains many scientific studies and also essential oil profiles on essenial oil safety. I always use this book to check how safe an essential oil really is before I purchase one. This book is the best but it is pricey. A new edition is probably going to be published soon--hopefully!

Kurt Schnaubelt has a great book called "Advanced aromatherapy: the science of essential oil therapy" which breaks down essential oils to the chemical components.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Natural Preservatives in Body Oils and Scrubs and Grapefruit Seed Extract (Natural Skin Care/Aromatherapy)

I've previously blogged on natural preservatives (here and also here), but here is some more information on them.

Do I need to use preservatives in water-less products like body oils, butters, and scrubs?

Many carrier oils and butters are 'self preserving' so have a long shelf life and (when used straight; no water added) don't really need preservation, though using an antioxidant like vitamin E or storing it in the fridge certainly helps extend shelf life. Some carrier oils and butters also have high levels of natural antioxidants present, such as shea butter which has vitamin A. Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax, so is an excellent choice as it has a very long shelf life and doesn't go rancid quickly.

Most essential oils are antiseptic or antibacterial, and are also antioxidants. Tea tree is not only antiseptic, and antibacterial but antiviral and antifungal as well.

Some companies also use herbal extracts like rosemary extract or black willow bark extract, which not only contain bacteria busting herbs, but alcohol (the extracting medium) as well. Alcohol is a well known preservative.

I've never had a problem with my body oils or butters (or scrubs) going rancid/moldy (I always use vitamin E and essential oils) but I tend to make things in small batches and use them up quickly (within a month or two).

If I'm not mistaken, similiar to salt, sugar is also 'self preserving'. I just add a little vitamin E and essential oils since they not only prevent them from going bad, but have skin benefits too! :)

This question was not answered on a forum, but I decided to post about it since I've been researching it recently.
Is grapefruit seed extract natural?

I'm actually still researching this! I used to think it was natural, but the more I read about it, I think it is one of those borderline ingredients that half the people in the natural cosmetic industry considers natural and the other half doesn't. From my knowledge, it depends on the company that produces it and how a person defines what's 'natural'. Many brands that have been tested have actually been found to be contaminated with parabens and other synthetic preservatives :( . There are a few that aren't, and it is even debatable if those brands can even be considered natural. Grapefruit seed extract (not to be confused with grapefruit essential oil or grapeseed oil) starts out with with either the seeds and sometimes the pulp. However, it undergoes a long secretive process involving chemicals and UV light, which some people argue completely changes the natural constitute of the seeds and pulps, and others argue it just refines it and enhances certain characteristics. Whether or not it is truly natural, the good thing is that it has been shown to be non-toxic, and an effective preservative (though its effectiveness has been debated as well). Personally, for the present, I do not mind using grapefruit seed extract because it is non-toxic and safer than most of the synthetic chemical preservatives out there. But I am looking into other alternatives like Suprapein and Biopein (Thanks Jen (Camellia Rose) for the articles!) which are all natural, scientific tested preservatives made from essential oils or herbs. But these natural preservatives are made with some of the same essential oils I already use to preserve my cosmetics so maybe I'll just stick to my beloved essential oils!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Photoxicity of orange essential oil (Aromatherapy/Essential Oil Information)

I've decided to post FAQ (questions I've answered on forums) before this summer is over and I start hell semester (errr, year...err I mean go back to school and doing my awesome thesis/own research!) and have no more time to post :(. If you have any questions you'd like answered please ask now. :)

Is orange essential oil phototoxic?

A lot of essential oil resources list all citrus oils as phototoxic but to my knowledge that's not neccessary true (many distilled citrus oils like lime and lemon are not phototoxic unlike their expressed versions which are phototoxic).

For orange essential oil, I regard Robert Tisserand's and Rodney Young's opinion (in "Essential Oil Safety: A Guide To Health Practitioners") as accurate since they have researched scientific tests on essential oil phototoxicity. They state that expressed bitter orange essential oil (from Citrus aurantium) is phototoxic, while expressed sweet orange (from Citrus sinensis) is not phototoxic.

*This post was edited on January 24, 2014, because the 2nd edition of Tisserand's Essential Oil Safety is now available.  The first edition was an excellent resource but definitely get the 2nd edition if you can, because it was totally rewritten and much expanded.  It is several hundred pages longer than the first edition.  Tisserand is one of the best safety experts on essential oils, and Young is a chemist.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Blog update--Small Font/Links fixed!

Hi everyone,

Well it took me a while, but I finally fixed the small text/link problem. I am silly! I accidentally didn't type the / when closing the header tags in the html code for some of the headers for the links, thus causing the weirdness in the fonts. I guess I should've cut and paste rather than trying to add links by typing in the html code manually from memory, LOL! (Still trying to learn html code; I'm really good at using the html editors which automatically generate the html code for you--I used to teach how to use html editors and other webpage/graphic info as an undergrad--but my html skills still need work!). I guess safari, firefox, and netscape didn't care that some of my tags were not closed, but Internet Explorer sure did!

Thanks again for Robin and Sue for mentioning the font size was wacky. If anyone in the future notices anything wrong with any of the links, formatting, etc, of this blog, please post a comment. I generally blog using Firefox or Safari (since many Blogger features only work on Firefox, and I am a Mac user) so don't really use Netscape or Internet Explorer (though I do have those browsers on my computer), and may not be aware of problems on various browsers, or how it may look like on a PC.


Hair Rinses (All Natural Haircare)

Many people love using (diluted) apple cider vinegar rinses or herb infused acv rinses after using all natural shampoos, but I've found them too drying for my hair. I like using herbal infusions as hair rinses, as recommended by Rose, Gladstar, and other herbalists. They rinse away any residue from shampoos and other hair products and leave the hair soft and shiny.

Here is a list of herbs that can be used as hair rinses that I also just posted about on a forum a couple days ago (but I just added many other herbs and suggestions to the list).

All hair types:
Lavender (my favorite)
coltsfoot (both ht and cf have a lot of vitamins that are beneficial to the hair)
Rosemary (a classic often cited for all hair types; I think it is better for oily hair than dry though)

Dry and light hair:

Oily and light hair:

Oily and dark hair:

black walnut hull (I read about this herb in Gladstar's book, and I know many ladies who henna the hair also use this since it really colors the hair dark. I don't know how effective it'd be in a rinse, as suggested by Gladstar, because I think it can stain the skin too if you're not careful, so don't make the rinse too concentrated!)

Dry hair:
marshmellow root

raspberry or strawberry leaves
yarrow leaf

Other good hair rinses:

Oily hair:

beer (yes, you read that right! It supposingly makes the hair shiny, but I haven't tried it because I hate the smell of beer, but I have used a shampoo bar made with beer and it worked pretty well)

Normal/some people with dry hair:

red wine vinegar rinse (diluted with water)--better for drier hair, more mild than apple cider vinegar

You could also use hydrosols (which have a longer shelf life) but that can get expensive; I recommend stretching them with distilled water if you decide to use them.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tips for Mineral Makeup Application (All Natural Makeup)

I love mineral makeup (and now that I'm learning how to craft it, I love it even more!). Just thought I'd share some of my application tips that I posted on a forum just now. Back to doing homework!

1) Make sure your skin is well moisturized and hydrated. Sometimes some ladies find MMU drying because they haven't adequately moisturized their skin. Let the moisturizer soak in for several minutes before applying your minerals

2) Don't use a lot of product. One of the most common mistakes in applying mineral makeup is that ladies use too much to apply, leading to a chalky appearence. MMU is a concentrated product, meaning it doesn't contain any fillers so you don't need ot apply a lot. You really only need a few grains; much less than you think.

3) Procedure: sprinkle a small amount of product into the lid or a swirly bowl, swirl your brush into the powder, tap off the excess, and then buff into the skin. It is better to apply several thin layers rather than a thick layer (which will look chalky).

4) Most women use a kabuki or a flat top brush for med to heavy coverage. I use a taklon brush (I'm vegetarian). Other prefer using a flocked sponge (dry or wet) for heavy coverage, and others still like to mix their minerals with either aloe or an all natural cream for application (apply with fingers, a sponge, or a taklon foundation brush). Find what works for you

5) After application, spray your skin with either hydrosol or try aloe to set your makeup. This is particularly good for dry skin, but also works well for oily skin (esp oily skin that is oily because it is dehydrated)