Mother Earth Living

Real Beauty

Tips and tricks for natural body care

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Everyone has a favorite type of soap, but whether you’re exclusively loyal to antibacterial body-wash or an advocate for plain soap bars, it’s worth our time to analyze which are the healthiest options. 

From the look, texture, and feel, all soaps are substantially different and do not offer the same health benefits when it comes to long-term skin care. From antibacterial and scented to organic, soap has a clear purpose and may be used to clean a variety of things—vehicles, pets, children and even ourselves. In a society that fears germs, we always want the most potent product to cleanse with. But would we clean our bodies with the same substance we use on our dishes?

Organic Soap
Photo courtesy Castile Soap Bar

Antibacterial Soaps

Antibacterial soaps have active antimicrobial ingredients added to them. These chemicals are typically non-organic and are specifically designed to kill bacteria and microbes. One of the main ingredients in antibacterial soaps is triclosan, an ingredient that is nearly ubiquitous in liquid hand soap. Unfortunately, triclosan has been linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and may disrupt thyroid function (even with low levels of the ingredient). There is also early research indicating triclosan can interfere with the skeletal and muscular systems. Interestingly, antibacterial soaps are not any more effective than plain soap and water at removing bacteria and microbes. The FDA has completed a series of studies over the past 40 years that looks into the efficacy of antibacterial soaps and the use of triclosan. The USDA concluded that the ingredient is not as effective as manufacturers claim.

Chloroxylenol is another chemical compound commonly used in antibacterial soaps and cosmetic products. It’s used in hospitals and households for disinfection, sterilization and wound-cleansing. But excessive use of soaps containing chloroxylenol may lead to dehydration of skin cells, itching and rashes. The manufacturing process of soaps containing this ingredient is highly polluting to our world. 

Antibacterial soaps do kill bacteria and microbes, which may be a great option when treating a mild—and temporary—skin infection. However, if antibacterial soaps are not as effective as advertised, and may actually pose a health risk, then we must reconsider their daily use as a simple and desirable cleansing product. 

Scented Soaps

Who would not be delighted to discover and experience a new fragrance in their soap? There is an extraordinary variety of smells available, from warm lavender to bold calendula. Olfaction, or the sense of smell, is significantly more acute in humans than any other sense. That is why we remember certain scenarios, settings and events easier when encountering a familiar smell. Our lavender soap may indeed paint a vivid image in our minds of strolling through lush lavender fields. Even though scents themselves don’t add any cleaning power to our soaps, they are nice to experience. However, many aromatic essential oils—pure botanical oils derived from nature—can contain antimicrobial properties, including lavender and tea tree oil. But not every scent used to accent soap is derived from natural sources.

Sad to say, most commercially available soap bars and body washes are artificially scented. Surprised? Hope not! Manufacturers may cut costs by using chemicals and artificial fragrances (or phthalates) rather than actively growing and harvesting their own natural ingredients and extracts. Most of these products are also loaded with preservatives (yes—soaps do expire) and questionable ingredients. This leads to an ever-growing need for hydrating lotions, skin nourishment and other forms of moisturizers. In the noble effort of maintaining our long-term health without exposing ourselves to harmful side effects, we must actively select soaps that are scented with natural ingredients only—not chemicals.

Organic Soaps

What is better than a product directly made from Mother Earth? The healthiest soaps are typically bars made from vegetable oil blends such as castile soaps or pure organic soaps. For foaming soaps, liquid castile soap is slightly more costly but far healthier for the skin. In addition to being available in liquid form, castile soap is also available in bar form—an exciting option. The term “Castile Soap” originates from the Castile region of Spain, where the soaps were stricly made from olive oil. Today, castile soaps have evolved and now refer to any soap made from the saponification of vegetable oils. Castile soaps don’t contain harmful antibacterial ingredients, cleaning agents or neurotoxins disguised as fragrances or artificial colors.

Any pure organic soap is also an option to castile soap. Organic soap ingredients may include olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sweet almost oil, jojoba oil, glycerine, deionized water, sodium hydrate and natural extracts (for scents or exfoliation). These soaps provide a refreshingly natural and clean feeling. They typically don’t have an overpowering scent as they contain no chemicals or unnatural additives. Organic soaps simply smell pleasant and get you clean without over-drying your skin. At the end, the lather rinses away completely and leaves your skin feeling fantastic! Indeed, there is something special about the perfect soap: a beautiful lather and a smooth feeling without sacrificing long-term health.

Have you tried any castile soap or organic soap before? If so, let us know what you think. 

Audrey LefebvreAudrey Lefebvre has been practicing holistic health-care in Florida for the past four years. She currently assists with patient care at the offices of doctor Ron N. Shemesh, and is a featured blogger and presenter for Castile Soap Bar. To learn more about her, holistic living and castile soaps, visit Castile Soap Bar.


I love using natural beauty products. I live for lotions, lip balms, moisturizers and facial cleansers enriched with organic, nourishing ingredients. But if I’m being totally honest, natural deodorants have always eluded me. As someone who sweats a lot (TMI? Sorry.) I’ve had a difficult time committing to natural deodorants on a regular basis. (Read “Why You Should Use Natural Deodorant.”) Thankfully, my job has allowed me to try and discover a number of natural deodorants that I really like. A few have even become staples for me on low-impact days. (Read “Natural Deodorant Options” for a list of the deodorant products I am currently digging.) The natural deodorant that I’ve been enjoying most recently is Primal Pit Paste’s Thyme & Lemongrass Natural Deodorant Stick.

Primal Pit Paste

Primal Pit Paste’s Thyme & Lemongrass Deodorant Stick Ingredients

Before I dig into this natural deodorant stick, here is a full list of its ingredients:

Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Shea Butter, Organic Arrowroot Powder, Organic Beeswax, Aluminum Free Baking Soda, Essential Oils

That’s it folks! This is as natural as it comes—all of the ingredients listed on this product are easy to pronounce and zero of them have been flagged on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, so use the product to your heart’s content.

My Thoughts

Primal Pit Paste offers an array of natural, handcrafted deodorant products, from sticks and creams to extra-strength blends. But I chose to review this particular paste stick for one main reason: It smells amazing! It’s infused with thyme and lemongrass essential oils, two natural antiseptics that are great-smelling and wonderfully healing oils for deodorants. I love citrus-smelling anything, so this “pit paste” had already won me over with its scent alone.

The working ingredients in this stick deodorant include arrowroot powder, baking soda, shea butter and coconut oil. Arrowroot powder is a great thickening agent; baking soda has natural antibacterial properties that kill odor-causing bacteria and neutralize the smell of sweat; and shea butter and coconut oil are antimicrobial ingredients that soothe skin.

The product can be a little difficult to apply without knowing what needs to be done: You can’t just start rubbing it under your arm, as it needs to use your natural body heat to soften up. Place the stick directly on your armpit and let it sit for five to 10 seconds. This will soften it, making it easier to apply. Two to three swipes are all you really need to use. Just make sure that the blend feels soft enough to apply or it will leave small chunks under your armpits that are sure to show up on your clothing. If this is something you worry about happening, just use your fingertips to fully wipe the deodorant blend into your skin.

Even though I still sweat just a little with this product (a natural process that your body needs to go through anyway), my sweat didn’t stink. So if you love anything citrus-scented and are looking for a natural deodorant, try this 2-ounce paste stick for $11. Visit their website to buy it online or find it at a store near you. You’ll smell great all day long! Primal Pit Paste also offers paste sticks in Lavender, Orange Creamsicle, Lemonade, Primal Spice, Coriander Sage, Royal & Rogue, Jacked-Up Jasmine and Unscented.

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


Naturally healing oils can give our skin some replenishment after the harsh, dry conditions of winter. Use the following editor-recommended oils by themselves or in homemade moisturizers, skin softeners, massage oils, make-up removers, leave-in hair treatments and much more.

Pomegranate Oil

Rich Renewal

This edible Pomegranate Seed Oil is certified both organic and kosher.

To Buy:  $17, Mountain Rose Herbs

Argan Oil Facial Serum

Morning Magic

Boost your morning facial regimen with this Daytime Argan Facial Oil Serum, which is also enriched with sunflower and jojoba oils.

To Buy:  $20, Aura Cacia

Sea Buckthorn Cream

Rapid Replenishment

Alleviate dry skin while protecting from moisture loss with Sea Buckthorn Body Cream.

To Buy:  $15, Sibu Beauty

Argan Oil Balm

Balm Bliss

Argan Oil Balm softens and improves skin texture; reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; and nourishes chaffed or irritated skin.

To Buy: $20, Nourish Organic

Lavender Oil

Amazing Everyday

Heal skin with the all-over moisturizing formula French Lavender Everyday Body Oil, enriched with jojoba oil to naturally restore skin’s softness.

To Buy:  $15, EO Products

Learn more about skin-nourishing oils in Naturally Healing Body Oils.


I feel like I review a lot of lotions, but to be honest it’s the beauty product I go through the fastest—especially during the winter when my skin is dry and cracked. So it never hurts to share another great lotion that’s landed on my radar, right? Good, because I really enjoyed using Erbaviva’s Relax Body Lotion.

Erbaviva is a natural beauty company that creates organic, handmade skin-care products for babies, mothers-to-be and everyone else. With an array of products, including Mommy-To-Be Milk Bath, Belly Butter, Baby Sunscreen, Diaper Cream, a variety of lotions and even pure essential oils, it’s fair to say that Erbavia has a well-rounded line fit for just about everyone.

Erbaviva Relax Body Lotion 

Erbaviva’s Relax Body Lotion Ingredients

Before I get into why I love their Relax Body Lotion, let’s look at its full list of ingredients:

Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Beeswax, Xanthan Gum, Algin, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium) Flower Oil, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Flower Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Flower oil, *Geraniol, *Limonene, *Linalool, *Citronellol

Sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate are flagged by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database as a low-moderate risk (3). In addition, geraniol (7), limonene (6), linalool (5) and citronellol (5), which are naturally occurring scents, are flagged with higher risks. Why is this? I suspect it’s because certain people can have skin sensitivities to them. Geraniol, for example, is a naturally occurring scent ingredient found in various essential oils such as rose and citronella. And although the FDA considers geraniol generally recognized as safe (GRAS), the International Fragrance Association restricts its use because of potential sensitization.

Fortunately, these four ingredients are components of certified organic ingredients, so if you don’t suffer from supersensitive skin, then it’s likely that you won’t have a poor reaction to these natural fragrances. If you are worried, conduct a small patch test on your skin.

My Thoughts

Naturally scented with a number of relaxing ingredients, including lavender, rose and neroli oil, Erbaviva’s Relax Body Lotion is just that—wonderfully relaxing. It’s blended with nourishing cocoa butter, skin-healing aloe and natural anti-inflammatory jojoba oil, making it a healing treat for the skin as well. Milky and lightweight, this lotion is non-greasy and perfect for storing on your office desk to hydrate hard-working hands in the afternoon. All you need is a couple of pumps from this bottle to effectively moisturize.

To snag a bottle of this 6-ounce pump for $20, find it a store near you or buy online. If you’re not looking to relax, try one of Erbaviva’s other lotion blends, including Awaken, Embrace and Breathe.

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. 


Mix and match these three simple food-grade ingredients for glowing winter skin.

Simple Skin Care
Photo by iStock

Raw Honey
Honey promotes skin healing and has natural antimicrobial properties. Simply massage it into damp skin to improve skin’s health and appearance.

On days when you need to slough off dry skin, add a bit of granulated sugar to your honey. The natural exfoliation will help your complexion shine.

Olive Oil
Winter can take a toll on skin. Protect your delicate facial skin by adding a bit of extra moisturizing power to your face wash with olive oil. Simply add a few drops of oil to your honey before rubbing into your face. You can also pat oil on after washing and drying your face, but you may prefer a more neutral-smelling oil, such as grapeseed or sweet almond, for that purpose.


I say this every year, and every year I mean it—I hate winter. It’s not just me. It’s my skin, too. My skin has taken a turn toward the dark side, and by dark side I mean dry side. I am constantly lathering up with moisturizers, which means I am going through lotions fairly fast. One lotion that I have become most grateful for is from Vineyard Hill Naturals. I am particularly in love with their Lemon Verbena Hand Cream, which boasts a uniquely uplifting scent that’s perfect for curing my winter doldrums.

Lemon Verbena Hand Cream 

Vineyard Hill Naturals’ Lemon Verbena Hand Cream Ingredients

Here is a full list of the ingredients in this body-care product:

Purified Water, Sunflower Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Capric Caprylic Triglycerides, Polysorbate-60, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Dimethicone, Shea Butter, Orange Peel Wax, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Sweet Almond Oil, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Chamomile Extract, Arnica Extract, Lavender Extract, White Tea Extract, Sorbitol, Beeswax, Sodium PCA, Grape Seed Extract, Stearic Acid, Olive Oil, Tocopherol Acetate, Xanthane Gum, Sodium Alginate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin, *Fragrance And Essential Oils

*Typically we don’t recommend any product that lists fragrance. It causes confusion, as this ubiquitous term could potentially comprise of hundreds of chemicals. But after speaking with Vineyard Hill Naturals, they assured me their fragrance consists of 100 percent pure essential oils, including amyris, anise, balsam, cedarwood, lime and orange.

The remaining ingredients that are bolded scored between a 3 and 4 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, sparking only moderate concern.

My Thoughts

Vineyard Hill Naturals is a California-based company that embraces the power of plants. Using vegan-friendly formulas and science-backed botanicals, including calendula, chamomile, lavender and arnica, the company has created a collection of products that not only smell good but boast a number of skin-repairing benefits.

This 2-ounce bottle of hand cream fits snuggly in my purse, which is great because I am a lotion fiend. I love how this product is rich in botanicals: It contains rejuvenating aloe juice, soothing chamomile extract, anti-inflammatory arnica extract and antiseptic lavender extract, among many others. It also uses a myriad skin-healing oils, including olive, sunflower and grapeseed oil. The aroma is not overpowering and the hydrating effects last for hours.

Visit their website for more information about the 2-ounce bottle ($7) or 9-ounce bottle ($9) of Lemon Verbena Hand Cream. The company also makes a lovely Lavender Rose Hand Cream and nutrient-rich Milk & Honey Hand Cream.

Gina DeBacker Headshot

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


Many people suffer from dark under-eye circles (I know I do), but another common and unsightly annoyance of the eyes is puffiness. The skin around your eyes is the thinnest part of your skin, and as such is very sensitive. Avoid rubbing your eyes or falling asleep with makeup on—both of which can risk irritation and lead to inflammation around the eyes. Puffiness can also occur thanks to a range of circumstances, including fluid retention; seasonal allergies; cold or sinus infections; lack of sleep; stress; or even poor diet.

Other times, puffy eyes can be a symptom of an eye condition known as blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelids and base of the eyelashes. This condition is associated with bacterial infection or skin disorders such as rosacea or seborrhea, and is usually non-contagious. If you think you may have this condition, talk with an eye-care professional.

If you’ve woken up to find tired-looking eyes, turn to these simple at-home remedies.

Natural Remedies For Puffy Eyes 

8 Home Remedies for Puffy Eyes

DIET DILEMMA: Limit your sodium intake. An excessive amount of salty foods can lead to water retention—water will move from areas with a low concentration of salt to areas with a high concentration in order to balance out the levels of sodium. Replace that bag of salty crackers with a banana, handful of unsalted almonds or box of raisins.  

STAY HYDRATED: Make sure to drink plenty of water. Keeping the body well hydrated can also reduce the chance of water retention. Drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water a day.

MAKEUP MAKEOVER: Look at the ingredients in the products you’re putting on (or near) your skin. Oftentimes, irritants and chemicals found in makeup, perfumes and detergents can have inflammatory effects on eyes. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to check your ingredients. Especially steer clear of fragrance.

ICE, ICE BABY: Sometimes, all you need is a nice splash of ice cold water to help reduce the swelling around your eyes. Wash your face with ice cold water, or wrap an ice cube in a cloth and apply to your eyes.

TEA UP: Caffeinated teas can help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling. Green or black tea is great for soothing irritated eyes; herbal teas such as chamomile contain anti-irritants that also help soothe redness. To make a tea compress, steep two tea bags of your choice in hot water for three to five minutes. Let cool until comfortably warm, place over each eye then cover with a soft cloth.

SPOON SOLUTION: Tighten the skin around your eyes and relax the blood vessels with the following home remedy: Chill five to six metal spoons in your refrigerator for 10 minutes; once chilled, hold the rounded portion against your eye for a few minutes until it becomes warm; replace with another cold spoon.

DIY CREAM: Topical eye creams rich in aloe and vitamin E can be soothing to your skin. Mix 1 tablespoon vitamin E cream with 1/2 teaspoon aloe gel, and store in a small tin. Be extra gentle as you apply the cream around your eyes and use daily.

MASKED AVENGER: Apply mild pressure to the puffy area around your eyes at night with a homemade eye mask. Try the following cucumber eye mask recipe—cucumbers contain antioxidants that may help reduce irritation, cool skin and lessen swelling. Blend 1 large cucumber at high speed until liquefied, adding small amounts of water to thin as necessary. Soak cotton pads (about the size of your eyes) in the solution then squeeze out any extra juice. Place pads in a sandwich bag and freeze—make up to 30 at a time! To use, place thawed cucumber pads on your eyes for 10 minutes.

PILLOW POSITION: Keeping your head elevated may also reduce the swelling around your eyes. Sleep in a position that increases blood flow to your eyes.

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.

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