Mother Earth Living

Real Beauty

Tips and tricks for natural body care

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2/20/2014

Showers tend to be a rushed part of my day, but every once in awhile I like to take my time and indulge in some luxurious spa products. Recently I’ve been indulging in a cute little body scrub tub from a relatively new company. The Orange Owl sells all-natural, handmade, vegan-friendly products without parabens, dyes, silicones, phthalates, sulfates, fragrance oils or petroleum products, according to its website. I discovered this fun little body-care company at last year’s Natural Products Expo West and was impressed with its array of lip balms, soap bars, body butters and body scrubs. I was fortunate enough to take home their Sun Shower body scrub and have enjoyed it immensely.

Orange Owl Sun Shower
Photo courtesy The Orange Owl

The Orange Owl’s Sun Shower Body Scrub Ingredients

First thing’s first, let’s go over the ingredients in this natural body scrub. Body scrubs by nature are simple to make on their own—grab a handful of sugar and pour a teaspoon or two of olive oil into your palm, and you’ve got an instantaneous body scrub. So when I’m shopping for scrubs I like to find one that uses luxurious ingredients not already in my pantry, but also not filled with harsh, unnecessary ingredients. Here is a full list of the ingredients in The Orange Owl’s Sun Shower Body Scrub:

Wildcrafted sugar, organic sunflower oil, organic vitamin e oil, baking soda, vegetable glycerin, colloidal oatmeal, *grapefruit seed extract, tangerine essential oil, grapefruit essential oil, spearmint essential oil, and patchouli essential oil

I double checked the safety of these all-natural ingredients and only found one mild concern, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database: grapefruit seed extract (ranks 3), which had contamination concerns.

My Thoughts

My favorite part about this product (other than its adorable orange owl logo) is its energizing citrus scent. Infused with tangerine, grapefruit, spearmint and patchouli, this scrub is perfect for early morning showers when you need a burst of energy to help get you through the day. Plus, the scent is not overpowering. Citrus alone is a popular ingredient in body-care products for its high vitamin content and useful acids. It is also popular in aromatherapy as it is energizing and uplifting.

The scrub itself felt gentle while also being very exfoliating—especially on my rough patches of skin. It also had just the right amount of oil to it. At first, when I scooped some of the scrub out with my fingers, I thought the scrub would feel completely dry. But as you rub it on just the right amount of oil massages into your skin.

If you want to indulge in a 7-ounce jar of this citrusy scrub, buy it online or find it a store near you for only $11. The company also sells a Mocha Buzz, Summer Sorbet and an unscented Simply Sweet body scrub.


Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.  



2/3/2014

Although I have stockpiles of lotion on my nightstand, in my bathroom and at my desk, I am usually one of those people who find themselves out in public without lotion but with very dry hands; I depend on the selflessness of my friends to loan me whatever they have on hand. Finally I put a stop to this foolishness and slipped a new lotion into my purse—and I am so thankful that I did. I don’t plan on being without this great new find for a long time.

Benecos Natural Beauty’s Hand Cream for Happy Hands is perfectly sized for purses. The company, which is fairly young, offers reasonably priced and affordable beauty products as well as a variety of cosmetics. Among their natural cosmetics standards, products from this company must be sourced from a plant or mineral; the plant ingredients must be sourced from organic growth or wildly harvested whenever possible; packaging must be ecologically conscious; genetically modified, synthetic or petroleum-based ingredients are not allowed; and animal testing is not allowed. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ingredients this hand cream actually uses.

Benecos Hand Cream
Photo courtesy Benecos Natural Beauty

Benecos Natural Beauty’s Hand Cream Ingredients

Benecos stays true to its ethical standards with this natural hand cream. Here is a full list of the ingredients:

aqua (water), helianthus annuus (sunflower) hybrid oil, glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate citrate, glyceryl stearate, prunus amygdalus dulcis (almond) oil, calendula officinalis flower extract, arctium lappa (burdock) fruit extract, tilia cordata (linden) flower extract, rosa canina (rose) fruit extract, sambucus nigra (black elderberry) fruit extract, hypericum perforatum (st. john's wort) flower extract, urtica dioica (nettle) root extract, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, glycerin, sorbitan caprylate, tocopherol (vitamin e), *potassium hydroxide, ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin c), xanthan gum, sodium phytate, sodium salicylate, dehydroacetic acid, citric acid, fragrance (natural)

Looking through this last, I found that only one ingredient raised a concern—and a mild concern at that—with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database: potassium hydroxide (ranks 3).

My Thoughts

First things first: I love the bright and cheerful packaging. I am a sucker for pretty packaging, so let me admit that, yes…that’s the first thing that stood out to me. It’s girly, colorful and just tons of fun. I am also digging this price—it is only $7.50!

What’s more, this is a high-quality lotion, especially for the price. The consistency is just right—not too thick, not too thin—and it doesn’t leave my hands feeling greasy. Plus, the lotion is not overly scented. Most lotions I’ve tried recently have played with their fragrance a little bit too much. I swear…some have even left me smelling like Fruity Pebbles. So the very light herbal tones in this product were a refreshing change. I was also delighted to read the names of so many healing herbs in this blend, including St. John’s wort, nettle, calendula and burdock.

My hands feel well moisturized and ready to take on this crummy season. (Ugh, I am so over winter. Bring on summer!) If you want to toss this product in your purse, buy it online or find it at a store near you.


Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.  



1/17/2014

Every winter my skin becomes super dry, which is really no surprise. With winter comes low humidity, stripping our skin of its natural moisture and leaving it cracked and more susceptible to damage. So I am constantly slathering my face, hands and feet with some kind of moisturizer. Fortunately I found a great little tub of body butter from the Savannah Bee Company and I’ve been using it to hydrate my skin most of this winter.  

Located in Savannah, Georgia, this company manufactures a luxurious line of beeswax-based body-care products. I’ve tried a few of their other products, and while I enjoyed them they didn't impress me quite as much as this body butter. Rich and creamy, it’s everything you could ask for in a body butter—and it makes an excellent moisturizer for dry skin. Plus, it’s loaded with propolis.

Royal Jelly Body Butter
Photo courtesy Savannah Bee Company

The Benefits of Propolis

Propolis is essentially the glue that holds a beehive together—it’s a combination of beeswax and other secretions with resins from the buds and barks of certain trees. For centuries people have turned to propolis for minor skin ailments such as wounds and itching, as well as other illnesses including cancer, osteoporosis and tuberculosis. Today, old-school beekeepers have been known to chew on a piece of propolis to relieve sore throats. This may sound strange, but it makes sense based on the research—propolis has been shown to have antibiotic and antiseptic properties, and maybe even antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Savannah Bee’s Royal Jelly Body Butter

In this body butter, propolis is used to help nourish and moisturize the skin. The product is also full of royal jelly, a milky secretion produced by worker bees that is rich in lipids, amino acids and proteins; honey, a natural moisturizing humectant; and skin-softening beeswax. Here is its full list of ingredients:

Purified water, organic aloe vera leaf juice, isoamyl laurate, cetearyl alcohol, babassu butter, hydrogenated cocoglycerides, glycerin and raw royal jelly, glyceryl stearate citrate, cupuacu butter, cocoa butter, ethylhexyl olivate, d-panthenol (provitamin b5), sodium behenoyl lactylate, lauryl laurate, olive oil unsaponifiables, propolis extract, fragrance (“blackberry aromatic extract”), pecan oil, shea butter, natural beeswax, orange peel wax, chondrus crispus extract and glucose, sodium levulinate, kaolin (natural rose clay), natural alpha bisabolol, glyceryl caprylate, cetyl hydroxyethyl cellulose, sodium anisate, honey, allantoin, tocopherol (natural vitamin e), sea buckthorn fruit oil, and sodium phytate (naturally derived from rice bran).  

My Thoughts

What I like best about this body butter is how rich and creamy it is. I’ve been rubbing it on my feet every night before I go to bed, then putting on a pair of socks to trap the moisture—I don’t know if this actually does anything, but it’s what my mom always taught me and it seems to work!

Best of all, every ingredient listed in this product shows zero to very little (1) concern, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Its top-billed ingredients are sourced from bees, and the butter’s light berry scent comes from its naturally derived—not synthetic—blackberry aromatic extract. (My husband even noticed the fruity aroma!)

Do not use this thick product as an everyday moisturizer. As most body butters, this is best for areas of your skin that really need that extra dose of moisture such as heels and elbows. Thankfully it doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy, making it even more versatile than other body butters. If you want to keep this product on your nightstand, buy it online for $25.


Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.  



12/30/2013

Looking to splurge on a new organic skin-care system? I recently started using the ORGO 7 Serums by Organic to Green, which is a seven day skin regimen working to maintain a healthy complexion. If you’re a fan of skin serums, you will love this array of organic formulas.

First things first: What is a serum?

A serum is a lightweight, water-based formulation of natural ingredients. Unlike a facial oil, which is a concentration of pure plant oils (whether it be a single plant or a blend), a serum contains extra beneficial ingredients for the skin such as antioxidants, peptides and skin brighteners. More often than not, serums are brimming with anti-aging ingredients. Varying in texture, some serums should first be layered with a facial oil, cream or other moisturizer as serums can leave your skin feeling slightly sticky.

The best part about a high-quality serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated, leaving you with a high concentration of active ingredients. As such, most serums can cost a pretty penny (active ingredients are typically more expensive than thickeners), but when applied properly a small bottle can last for a long time.

ORGO 7 Serums
Photo courtesy ORGO Beauty

ORGO 7 Serums: Ingredients

This set of seven botanical serums from ORGO targets common skin deficiencies. It includes:

Sunday: Super Hyaluronic Hydration Serum
Designed to increase the suppleness and firmness of skin.
Ingredients include purified water, hyaluronic acid high molecular weight, hyaluronic acid low molecular weight, *phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Monday: Anti-Aging Multi-Peptide Serum
Designed to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Ingredients include seaweed extract, purified water, hyaluronic acid, acetyl hexapeptide-8, pentapeptide-18, dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate, acetyl glutamyl heptapeptide-1, palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, *phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Tuesday: Youth Collagen Serum
Designed to boost the quantity and quality of collagen as we age.
Ingredients include chondrus crispus (seaweed) extract, purified water (aqua), hyaluronic acid, pseudoalteromonas ferment extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, tripeptide-10 citrulline, tripeptide-1, *phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Wednesday: Botanical Stem Cell Serum
Designed to increase the longevity of skin cells and prevent wrinkles.
Ingredients include chondrus crispus (seaweed) extract, purified water (aqua), hyaluronic acid, malus domestica fruit cell culture, xanthan gum, glycerin, *lecithin, *phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Thursday: Antioxidant Plus Red Tea Serum
Designed to protect against pollution and environmental damage.
Ingredients include purified water, hyaluronic acid, red tea extract, *phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Friday: Oxygen Infusion Serum
Designed to help stimulate skin renewal and blood circulation.
Ingredients include purified water, perfluorodecalin, perfluoro poly methyl isopropyl ether, *isoceteth-20, *phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Saturday: Essential Protection Serum
Designed to protect the skin’s barrier.
Ingredients include cyclomethicone, octyl cocoate, dimethiconol, glycoceramides, ceramides, cholesterol

A few ingredients raise moderate concern (*) according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. These include phenoxyethanol (ranks 4), lecithin (ranks 3-4) and isoceteth-20 (ranks 3).

My Thoughts

I loved the variety of products in this set, my favorite probably being the Antioxidant Plus Red Tea Serum—it smelled divine. I also love that ORGO’s products are packaged in reusable glass. Plus, there are seven bottles of skin-beneficial goodies that can easily last you more than a year.

Although the serums are lightweight, my skin was definitely a little sticky after using each one. You will want to layer them with your favorite moisturizer, as is the case with serums in general. Also, you may only want to splurge for this product if you are worried about aging skin. Otherwise, a high-quality blend of more cost-effective facial oils may be suitable for your skin-care needs. Buy this skin-care set for $350 online.


Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.  



9/11/2013

Green Beauty Event
This year marked the first year of the green products beauty event A Night of Green Beauty.

This past weekend I was able to experience New York Fashion Week in all its girly goodness, as well as the fashion week kick-off natural beauty pop-up event, A Night For Green Beauty. Hosted by La Bella Figura and The Chalkboard Magazine, the green beauty event took place at the James Corbett Studio in the heart of the Flatiron District. It was so wonderful meeting enthusiastic green beauty bloggers and getting acquainted with the many fabulous green beauty brands.

A Night of Green Beauty Products

I’ve gone ahead and compiled just a handful of products that caught my eye at this inaugural event. Here’s hoping it becomes an annual event!

La Bella Figura Skin Aficionado 

La Bella Figura’s Skin Aficionado, $90

This brand new product is a harmonious blend of natural, healing oils, including passionfruit, tea tree and sacha inchi. Rich in plant nutrients and vitamins essential for healthy skin, this beauty product felt light and nourishing on my skin. I would love to incorporate it into my nighttime facial oil ritual.

One Love Organics Chia Whip 

One Love Organics’ Chia Whip, $28

Chia—what a surprising ingredient in a beauty product! This popular superfood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and fiber, and excels at helping ease digestion. And while I was familiar with these healing powers as a superfood, I was curious about how it could be helpful in my arsenal of body-care products. Evidently, researchers have been investigating its skin benefits for awhile now and found that it may hydrate skin and alleviate itchy skin. I can’t wait to try this fragrance-free foaming cleanser.

May Lindstrom The Good Stuff 

May Lindstrom Skin’s radiance oil “The Good Stuff,” $110

I was probably the most enamored with this high-end beauty product, if not for its luscious scent then for the sexy glow it leaves behind on your skin. Infused with cocoa, rose, lavender, ylang ylang and mica—the mineral that gives this oil its glittery shimmer—this product is both illuminating and hydrating. Although it’s very pricey, I would consider adding it to my beauty shelf, using it sparingly for special occasions.

H. Gillerman Clear Mind 

H. Gillerman Organic’s Clear Mind Jaw Clenching Remedy, $48

This aromatherapy product caught my eye for personal reasons: my dentist is constantly telling me I clench my jaw at night. (I’m sorry doc! I’m not responsible for sleepy Gina! She has a sleepy mind of her own!) So I wonder if this essential oil blend would help me ease up on the clenching. Infused with lavender, palmarosa, vetiver, German chamomile and patchouli essential oil, this earthy roll-on EO blend may help relax facial muscles and relieve headaches.

Ilia Multi Stick 

Ilia’s Multi-Stick “I Put A Spell On You,” $34

What impressed me the most about this line of natural makeup is its wide selection of colors. This company makes beautiful lipsticks, lip crayons, lip balms and lip conditioners that all of the beauty bloggers I met rave about. However, I was most fascinated with their multi-purpose multi-sticks. As a pretty pale person, I am constantly looking for ways to illuminate my cheeks without having to soak up harsh UV rays. This tangerine multi-stick looked so great on my skin in the salon; I think it would also make an excellent addition to my makeup bag for the pending fall!

Are you familiar with any of these companies? Would you add any of these products to your beauty bag? Let me know in the comments below!


Gina DeBacker Headshot

Gina DeBacker is the assistant editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.  



8/19/2013

Have you heard of the no-poo movement? It’s definitely not my favorite term, but the philosophy behind it is worth exploring. It refers to the droves of people turning away from expensive commercial shampoo and conditioner. These products often contain harsh synthetic fragrances, sodium laureth sulfate, propylene glycol and other creepy ingredients that come from mystery labs around the world. We trust that these products will make our hair gorgeous and drench ourselves in weird chemicals without knowing how they affect our overall health. Plus, think of the millions of plastic bottles that end up in the recycling bin, or worse, from all of the hair products we use.

But you HAVE to use shampoo, right? Nope! 

We’ve been told to lather, rinse, and repeat for decades now—and with dreams of healthy, shiny, flowy, bouncy perfection, we have complied. But what happens? The first day after a wash, your hair is kinda frizzy and dried out. On the second day it’s looking pretty good. By the third day, it’s a crazy greasy mess again and time to shampoo. This cycle happens as your scalp desperately tries to maintain balance. Most shampoo strips your hair of sebum, the natural oil produced by sebaceous glands to help condition and protect each strand. When it’s completely washed away, your glands sound the alarm bells and produce even more sebum to compensate for the sudden loss of protection. Using gentle cleansers and washing less often allows your body to function the way it was meant to.

Going "no-poo" is a different experience for everyone, depending on your natural hair and scalp condition. I have very fine, curly hair with a normal-to-dry scalp, so the transition was super easy for me. I started using the Chamomile Rose rinse recipe below just once a week. My hair immediately looked so much healthier and had more body and shine. Suddenly, instead of one good hair day a week, my hair was consistently awesome with less frizz and no scalp irritation at all. I know other people with thicker, oilier hair go through a not so fun transitional phase where the sebaceous glands continue to produce more and more sebum in anticipation of that regular shampooing. If you can stick it out, the process will eventually find homeostasis and revert back to a normal sebum production rate. This usually only takes a few weeks and is well worth the wait. Just think of all those neglected hats waiting in your closet!

Shampoo Replacement: Herbal Hair Rinses

Ready to try it out? These herbal hair rinses are amazing. They are so easy to make and will leave your hair feeling soft and your scalp clean and revitalized, but not stripped or dried out. Use once a week to replace your shampoo for good and allow your natural oils to condition each strand from root to tip.

Herbal Hair Rinses

Rose-Chamomile Hair Rinse

• 1 1/2 cups organic chamomile tea, brewed strong
• 1 cup organic rose petal tea, brewed strong
• 1 tablespoon baking soda

The deep golden-yellow produced by the chamomile flowers makes this a wonderful choice for light-colored hair or to enhance natural highlights in darker hair. My hair is dirty blond and I really notice a lightening effect like a sunny glow to my hair when I let it soak in for at least five minutes before rinsing out.

Rose Chamomile

Cacao-Rosemary Hair Rinse

• 1 1/2 cups organic cacao nib tea, brewed strong
• 1 cup organic rosemary leaf tea, brewed strong
• 3 drops organic peppermint essential oil
• 1 tablespoon baking soda

Rosemary is a classic herb for hair health. It brings circulation to the scalp and stimulates the follicles. It is also known to enhance the richness in dark-colored hair. The naturally conditioning cocoa butter fats found in cacao nibs will leave your hair feeling soft, and the chocolate-colored infusion is perfect for all shades of brown hair. Peppermint oil adds an invigoratingly clean scent, and is great for oily or sensitive scalps.

Cacao Rosemary

Nettle-Lavender Hair Rinse

• 2 1/2 cups organic nettle leaf tea, brewed strong
• 5 drops organic lavender essential oil
• 1 tablespoon baking soda

Nettle is a wonderfully strengthening tonic herb for hair. Its high mineral and vitamin content nourishes all hair types. Lavender essential oil is calming and helps normalize both dry and oily scalp conditions, and its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory nature makes it a nice choice for irritated or sensitive scalps, too. This formula is perfect for all hair colors and types.

Nettle Lavender

Hair Rinse Directions

1. Using a covered pot, decoct your herbs for 10 to 15 minutes. I generally use 1/4 cup of herbs per cup of water.

2. Strain out the herbs and combine your herbal infusion, essential oils and baking soda in a glass jar. You want the baking soda to be completely dissolved and well mixed.

3. Allow the infusion to cool to body temperature.

4. Pour over dry hair or soak hair in the mixture for at least five minutes. Massage the scalp gently using a circular motion.

5. Rinse out with clean running water.

6. You can follow the herbal rinse with an apple cider vinegar rinse if you’d like, which is a really popular method, but I usually skip it. Note: Apple cider vinegar balances the alkalinity of baking soda, removes buildup and residue and closes hair cuticles.

Feel free to experiment with other herb and essential oil combinations. For more information and guidance about what herbs are good for hair care, check out Naturally Healthy Hair by Mary Beth Janssen.

Enjoy your natural hair rinses!


Erin McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and a graduate of the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days photographing flowers, creating herbal treats and wildcrafting medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.



7/12/2013

Hello. My name is Gina, I am 27 years old and I still get acne. (Come on. I can’t be the only one, right? Right?)

Whenever a nasty blemish finds its way to my skin I grab my trusted vial of tea tree oil. But sometimes I have somewhere important to be the next day and I need a stronger solution that will make that blemish go away even faster. Enter Santalia’s Intensive Spot Treatment. This beauty product surprisingly uses sandalwood instead of tea tree to calm irritations and combat bacteria, as well as 2 percent salicylic acid.

Santalia What I like about this product is its soothing nature. The go-to ingredient in most store-bought acne treatments—benzoyl peroxide—leaves my skin feeling very dry and flaky. This product does not have that effect, which may have something to do with the remaining ingredients in the Santalia formula: Kakadu plum, a rich source of vitamin C; witch hazel, a natural astringent; and lemon myrtle extract, a popular extract for acne and oily skin. But don’t let its soothing nature fool you into thinking it’s not a strong acne fighter. The Santalia formula effectively reduced the size of my blemishes overnight: salicylic acid decreases inflammation and onion extract (yes, onion extract!) can help combat scarring, according to the website.

Unlike most spot treatments I have tried, this product is a gel, not a cream. Be careful when using this product—the gel comes out of the squeeze bottle very fast and you only need to use a little at a time.

Its use of salicylic acid may be an area of concern for some people, as it scores a 4 on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. In my opinion, salicylic acid is a better choice for acne emergencies than benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in mainstream acne treatment brands such as Proactive and Neutrogena. In low concentrations, salicylic acid is gentler on my skin and it doesn’t have the bleaching effect on clothes like benzoyl peroxide.

Santalia’s use of sandalwood for skin first surprised me, but then I discovered that sandalwood is actually an excellent skin healer, and that the company’s entire line of skin-care products is based on this ancient herb. Recent research shows that sandalwood oil is more effective at controlling bacteria and stopping inflammation than other botanical extracts or essential oils, according to the company’s website. Interesting!

Try this spot treatment for $28; click here to buy it online.


Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the assistant editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.



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