Mother Earth Living

Real Beauty

Tips and tricks for natural body care

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When I first discovered Garden Apothecary’s Vanilla + Balsam Sugar Scrub I was excited to try it out. The packaging is adorable and the ingredients are all natural. But I never could have imagined the joy that would overtake me as soon as I opened my jar. Upon removing the lid I was hit with the wonderfully delicious scent of vanilla. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but I was immediately transported to my kitchen baking Christmas cookies I couldn’t wait to share with friends and family.

Vanilla Sugar Scrub 

Garden Apothecary’s Vanilla Sugar Scrub Ingredients

If you are not a vanilla fan, then this vanilla sugar scrub, which even contains a whole vanilla bean pod, is not for you. The winter oils comprised in this sugar scrub offer a bevy of benefits. Vanilla oil (Vanilla planifolia) is a natural antioxidant, sedative and aphrodisiac. This scrub also features balsam oil (Myroxylon balsamum), a natural stimulant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Often mistaken for brown sugar, organic turbinado sugar is also used in this scrub to exfoliate skin. Here is a full list of the ingredients:

Organic turbinado sugar, organic almond oil, vitamin e, organic vanilla beans/powder/oils, organic balsam oils

After double checking the safety of these ingredients on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, I confirmed that none of these ingredients show any signs of concern. Use this product to your heart’s desire!

My Thoughts

Not only do I love this sugar scrub, but I love this company. Launched by professional horticulturist Jennifer Lee Segale in 2008, Garden Apothecary offers organic bath and body products made with whole botanicals in Half Moon Bay, California. All Garden Apothecary products are handmade in small batches to ensure quality and freshness, and can last for up to two years.  

I highly recommend this scrub, especially for wintertime use. Its vanilla scent evokes the holiday season and candy cane cocktails. That being said, I would use this scrub any time of the year. Scrubs help rid complexions of dead and flaky skin, and sugar scrubs in particular are great for cleansing and softening dry skin. This one from Garden Apothecary is too abrasive for facial use, but feels great on the rest of the body, especially rough patches such as elbows and heels. Plus, smelling its intoxicating scent generally lifts my spirits. Apply it to damp skin, massaging until the grains dissolve into the skin. You can then further massage the oil left behind into your skin, then rinse. The scrub won’t leave your skin feeling sticky—only well-nourished.

To care for your skin with this vanilla-y treat, buy a 9-ounce jar of this vanilla sugar scrub 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.


Caring for our hair can become somewhat of an obsession, but using conventional beauty products doesn't always seem like enough. That’s when we start to seek products that will give our tresses that extra-needed boost. Supplement your hair care with these nutrient-rich herbs. Homemade hair rinses and shampoos infused with the following may give you exactly what you’re looking for.

Herbs For Healthy Hair 


Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is rich in falconoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals, and the scalp from bacterial growth. Use this sunny flower to soothe sensitive scalps, as it is also rich in antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You can even use calendula to brighten blonde hair. To use calendula on your hair, steep 1/4 cup calendula flower petals in 1 cup boiling water overnight; strain, then use directly on your scalp as a final rinse post-shampoo.


Appreciated worldwide for its calming effects, chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is rich in antioxidant, cleansing and moisturizing properties. This daisy-like herb is wonderful for conditioning the hair and soothing an itchy, irritated or sensitive scalp. You can also use chamomile to lighten tresses, which is probably its most popular beauty use. If your hair is already blond, it will brighten your hair; if your hair is brown, it will lighten your hair by a couple of shades. To soothe your scalp or give your hair a golden hue, treat your hair with a chamomile rinse. Simply steep 1/4 cup fresh or dried chamomile flowers in two cups boiling water, then strain. To use, pour the rinse over clean hair as a final rinse; do not rinse.


Another herb rich in antioxidants, as well as astringent and antibacterial qualities, sage (Salvia officinalis) is excellent for soothing dry, itchy scalp. Use it to curb dandruff and eliminate buildup from the hair and scalp. You can also use sage leaves to darken hair and cover gray hairs. To use, combine sage with apple cider vinegar, a great product for hair that has a high natural pH and can help get rid of styling product residue. Mix 4 ounces of apple cider vinegar with 4 ounces cooled sage tea. Pour the mixture on your scalp, wrap your tresses into a towel or plastic cap for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse and shampoo as usual.


Promote hair growth with hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). This beautiful, vibrant flower can do a lot for hair. It can treat scalp conditions such as dandruff and hair loss. It can also seal in moisture as well as promote shine, aid with tangles and promote healthy hair growth by feeding the follicles with nutrients. Finally, it can also give red highlights to light or dark hair. To use, steep 1/4 cup fresh or dried hibiscus flowers with 2 cups boiling water; strain. Then pour over clean hair as a final rinse and do not rinse out.


Nourishing and hydrating, horsetail (Equisetum arvense) contains high concentrations of silicic acid. Silica strengthens weak, brittle and damaged hair at its core and may even restore body and luster. Horsetail is also great for treating oily scalps and remedying troubling skin ailments such as dandruff, eczema and psoriasis. Finally, it has been used for centuries to stimulate hair growth. Care for your hair with homemade horsetail shampoo. To make, simply steep 2 to 3 tablespoons dried horsetail in 1/2 cup hot water, add the mixture to your favorite chemical-free baby shampoo, and use to wash hair as usual. Because horsetail has antiseptic properties, excessive use could dry out your hair. You can also take horsetail orally (in capsule or tincture form, found at your local health-food store) to boost your hair health. Horsetail is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.

Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.


Caring for oneself is important—of course it is! It’s amazing sometimes just how often we need to hear that treating ourselves well should be a priority. Taking time to move our bodies, prepare nutritious meals, exalt in nature: It can feel indulgent, but it’s incredibly important to nurture our minds, bodies and souls. Pamper yourself properly with these natural personal-care products and services.

Relaxing Woman
Photo by Veer

1. Lip Smoother

Eco Lips Lip Balm

Reach for Eco Lips One World Revive hydrating lip balm to chase away a chapped kisser. It has a delightful mint flavor, thanks to the peppermint oil, and chia seed oil is supermoisturizing. The biodegradable, compostable, FSC-certified packaging is just another bonus. $6, Eco Lips

2. Take Your Vitamins

Mad Hippie Serum

For a brighter, smoother complexion, try this vitamin C serum from Mad Hippie. It has the added benefits of clary sage, aloe leaf and chamomile. $34, Mad Hippie

3. The Eyes Have It

Wild Carrot Herbals

Indulge the delicate skin around your eyes with this Luminous Lemon & Lavender Eye Brightening Cream from Wild Carrot Herbals. It also has shea butter, coconut oil and elder flower-infused extravirgin olive oil. $14, Wild Carrot Herbals

4. Wash Up

Herbal Choice Face Wash

On the lookout for an all-natural skin-care option? Herbal Choice Mari’s organic facial wash has you covered. Try this soothing blend of aloe juice, castile soap and jojoba oil, complete with lavender, sweet orange and geranium essential oils. $28, Herbal Choice Mari

5. Tone Time

Everclen Facial Toner

Reach for this gentle Everclen toner, developed to be hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic for sensitive skin. It boasts skin-soothing lavender and green tea extracts, plus aloe leaf juice. $15, Everclen

6. Don’t Dry Out

Facial Oil

Moisturize like you mean it with Aura Cacia’s SoothingTamanu Facial Oil. It only takes a bit of this potent blend of tamanu and jojoba oils with lavender and tea tree essential oils to chase away flakiness. $20, Aura Cacia

7. About Face

Acne Serum

Face acne head-on with this acne serum from Suki. Its blemish-fighting power comes from echinacea, goldenseal and the salicylic acid in white willow. $51, Suki

8. Errand Eraser

ePantry Box

If you are tired of running out for that crucial item—toilet paper, dish soap and the like—or have trouble finding sustainable options for household essentials, take advantage of ePantry. When you sign up for the subscription service, you can schedule delivery of sustainable home basics at a great price—no latenight run to the store required! Prices vary; ePantry


I am constantly struggling with my hair. Whether it’s dealing with the humidity that comes with living in Kansas during the summer or the dried-out effects of winter in general, my long hair can be a pain to deal with. So finding a product that helps tame my tresses is always worth raving about.

John Masters Organic’s Green Tea & Calendula Leave-In Conditioning Mist helps tame frizz without the heavy feeling many antifrizz treatments leave behind. This natural leave-in conditioner is a lightweight mist that uses myriad herbal ingredients to strengthen and revitalize hair. A company that excels in natural hair care, John Masters Organics offers many other tout-worthy hair-care products. But if you’re looking for a finishing product rich with natural ingredients, snag a bottle of their leave-in conditioning mist.

Natural Leave In Conditioner 

John Masters Organics’ Leave-In Conditioning Ingredients

Although finding hair-care products that are free of nasty chemicals can be tough, you can usually count on John Masters Organics to load up on the good stuff. The company promises products made with 70 to 100 percent organic content. Let’s take a look at what it’s packing in this product:

Aqua (water), aloe barbadensis leaf juice*, glycerin, panthenol, hydrolyzed soy protein, polyglyceryl-10 laurate*, **sodium benzoate, **potassium sorbate, guar hydroxypropyl trimonium chloride, cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil, pogostemon cablin (patchouli) oil, citrus grandis (grapefruit) peel oil, juniperus mexicana (cedarwood) oil, chamomilla recutita (chamomile) extract*, calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract*, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil*, urtica dioica (nettle) root extract*, citrus limon (lemon) peel oil, pelargonium pelatum graveolens (geranium) flower oil, linum usitatissimum (flax) seed oil*, borago officinalis (borage) seed oil*, helianthus anuus (sunflower) seed oil*, broccoli seed oil*
*Certified Organic

Of this herb-rich list, only two products show minimal sign of worry, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database: sodium benzoate (ranks 3) and potassium sorbate (ranks 3), two compounds that are typically used as preservatives. Both of these risks are low, so it’s up to you and what you feel comfortable putting on your body.

My Thoughts

Loaded with green tea and calendula—the stars of this hair-care product—as well as chamomile, geranium, ylang ylang, rosemary, nettle and other nutrient-rich botanicals, this leave-in conditioning mist feels great on hair. Anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial calendula helps condition oily hair while giving hair body and luster. This bright flower contains falconoids, antioxidants that protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals. Using green tea for hair is another great natural beauty trick, as it is an antiseptic that can treat irritating skin conditions such as dandruff and psoriasis, and can inhibit the growth of dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that hinders hair growth.

My favorite thing about this product is how well it works—it really tames my frizz! Best of all, it smells amazing, thanks to all the wonderful ingredients. Although you can spray it through your tresses right after getting out of the shower, I like to use it after I finish styling my hair to give it that final touch. Simply spray this mist all over (three to four squirts), paying special attention to the roots for added volume and the ends of your hair for extra shine. Buy this conditioning mist for $24 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.


We’re all trying to be a little more conscious of our carbon footprint, but we tend to overlook the little things. If you’re not ready to commit to a makeupless life or change brands to an environmentally friendly option, you can start with one simple change in your morning beauty routine: Don’t toss those old makeup compacts in the garbage.

Keep your makeup out of a landfill by repurposing those plastic cosmetic containers into something you can use. Maybe you’re thinking this might be a little too crafty for you, but these upcycled makeup compacts are a cinch whatever your skill level.

Cosmetic Container
Photo by Flickr/lilivanili

10 Uses for Old Makeup Containers

1. Store solid perfume. Turn those old makeup compacts into a solid perfume container. It’s as easy as melting some beeswax or coconut oil and adding your favorite essential oil or fragrance. Just make sure you clean out all of the makeup residue and then pour your custom perfume into the old makeup compact where it will solidify as it cools. Now you’ve got yourself an easy-to-carry perfume and you won’t have to worry about spilling it in your purse.

2. Cut the clutter. So you’ve decided to clean out your purse and now you have a pile of tiny odds and ends that you don’t want to sink back into the abyss at the bottom of your bag. Well, repurpose an old makeup compact to store everything from paperclips to earring backs. You could also keep other small items including mints, pills, coins, or an extra set of nails. You could even use them at the office to organize your desk drawers too.

3. Make your own makeup. The best way to save money while being environmentally conscious is to make your own makeup. Use an old makeup compact to carry homemade lip tint or lip balm. Simply melt together some beeswax and coconut oil, adding a natural tint like beet juice if desired, and pour it into the clean compact.

4. Be a smart consumer. Some makeup companies already have a recycling program in place that allows you to send back used compacts and makeup containers for recycling. You might even earn a freebie like with the Back to MAC program. A few companies providing recycling programs include beautyblender, MAC, and Origins. Other makeup companies provide the option for purchasing a refill instead of having to buy another bottle including Chanel and Burberry. If you have a favorite product that does not have a recycling program, let them know. It never hurts to send a letter or email expressing your concerns.

5. Keepsake or keep organized. Upcycle those old makeup compacts into a mini-photo album or notepad. Just place a stack of mini-sticky notes in the clean compact and use them to jot down your to-do list or important numbers in case you loose your cell. You can make a simple accordion type photo album by cutting the pictures to fit in the makeup compact and connecting them with ribbon and glue.

6. Emergency sewing kit. It happens, maybe you loose a button or the hem on your dress comes loose. Why not be prepared? Just glue a small piece of sponge or felt into your old compact to hold needles, throw in some thread and a button or two and you have a ready made sewing kit for quick fixes on the go.

7. Travel paint pallet. Use your old compact to make a mini pallet for painting while you travel. Put a little liquid watercolor, primary colors are best, in the clean compact, let it dry and use an old makeup brush for a paintbrush. You could even cut small pieces of watercolor paper to store in your upcycled compact and with a little water you’ll be painting wherever you are.

8. Stocking stuffer for kids. Turn a used compact into a memory game by using slips of paper with different images or family photos. You could also make a faux makeup kit by filling an empty compact with nail polish or acrylic paint. Cut out small paper dolls and store them in the empty compact, or make a miniature doll and bed inside.

9. Mod podge makeup compact. Decoupage is one craft anyone can do. Find some images you like and decorate an old makeup compact to use as a money clip or glue a magnet to the back and you have a unique work of art for your refrigerator.

10. Upcycled wall art. If nothing less, make wall art from your old makeup compacts. You can separate the mirrors and cluster them on the wall or use them as mini picture frames for favorite family photos.

Whether you decide to recycle or upcycle your old makeup compacts, you should never toss them just because they cracked. There’s an easy fix for broken powder, just mix it with a bit of rubbing alcohol, put it back in the compact and let it dry out again. Good as new without the waste of a new purchase.

Kate Hunter is an upcycling guru and an expert on natural beauty as well as organic gardening and sustainable farming. When she’s not working on the family’s organic farm, Hunter Farm, she makes and sells natural products and upcycled clothing on her Etsy shop Turnip Mims. Kate enjoys whole food cooking and following up on politics and the latest health food news. Kate is a mother of three, speaks sarcasm, some Spanish, but mostly English and spends her time baking, taking pictures, canning, growing and drying herbs, raising heritage breed chickens, reading, writing, and checking food labels, of course.


I love treating myself to at-home manicures. It’s a fun indulgence for whenever I have the time. Unfortunately, the effects of chemical-laden nail polish ingredients can be quite damaging on nails, as well as your health. Common nail polish ingredients include toluene, which helps polish brush on smoothly; formaldehyde, a hardener; and dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer that helps keep polishes from chipping. This trio of toxic ingredients has been linked to nausea, allergies, thyroid disorders, reproductive problems and cancer.

If you apply nail polish, you will eventually have to remove nail polish. Nail polish removers are limited—store-bought products are either made with acetone or nonacetone. Either ingredient can be damaging to the nail, although acetone is the more harmful of the two. It dries out nails and has been linked to problems with the heart, lungs and liver.

Science has yet to catch up with our manicure habits, so it can be difficult to find a pretty nail polish that is safe and effective. But as the green beauty market expands, the closer we get to a better alternative. Thankfully, Scotch Naturals is one of those companies who are dead set on pushing the boundaries of the green beauty market.  


Scotch Naturals Nail Polish Ingredients

Scotch Naturals prides itself on being the nontoxic, eco-friendly alternative to the “three-free” solvent-based polishes on the market. Instead, the polishes are made from a water-based formula. With its wide selection of color options—43 as of right now—you are sure to find a color that works with your preferred palette. Let’s take a look at the ingredients Scotch Naturals employs.

water, acrylic polymer emulsion, +/- *CI 15850, CI 77492, CI 77499, *CI 77289, *CI 77891 (nontoxic colorants), and/or mica

Of the ingredients used, a couple of the colorants were flagged for moderate concern by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (3 to 4).

Scotch Naturals also offers a soy-based nail polish remover that works well on all nail polishes, not just the water-based formulas offered by their company. Here’s a breakdown of its ingredients, none of which raised more than a low concern (1) by the EWG’s cosmetics database.

methyl soyate, dimethyl adipate, dimethyl glutarate

My Thoughts

As a nail polish, this formula is still not perfect. The polish doesn’t last for very long—give it a day or two and it will start to chip or wear away. However, when you think of the alternative, this nail polish is absolutely amazing in that it is free of so many harmful toxins. Here’s what I did like about it:

+ It’s completely odorless. I couldn’t believe that no one noticed me trying the nail polish on at my desk when I first received it. Not even my husband, who loudly complains about toxic nail polish fumes, said anything when I used it at home.

+ The packaging is stunning. Maybe this shouldn’t be such a large factor for me, but I am a sucker for pretty packaging. Scotch Naturals looks chic and trendy, which is a standard I try to achieve.

+ The formula is super safe. Although there are other nail polishes on the market that are safer than more mainstream polishes (think OPI or Essie), this water-based formula is completely safe.

+ It dries fast. You still can’t dig into your purse right away, but after a few minutes, a small bump isn’t going to force you to reapply. However, the formula really doesn’t “set” for a couple of hours.

+ Scotch Naturals offers a great range of colors. I would love to see them expand this selection even more, but in the meantime this is a wonderful start. From Seething Jealousy, a rich teal green, to Stiletto, a vibrant pink-red, there are a lot of options.

In order to achieve a clean-looking manicure from Scotch Naturals, here’s what you need to do:

1. Remove any existing nail polish and shape as usual.
2. Add a drop of jojoba oil to each nail and buff gently.
3. Wash hands with soap and water to rinse remover reside and buffing dust. (You must do this, or the nail polish does not apply evenly.)
4. Apply one coat of their fortifying base coats.
5. Follow with two coats of polish, allowing one to three minutes in between coats.
6. Finish with their top coat for a high gloss shine.

Buy a Scotch Naturals nail polish for $15 each. Alternatively, you can choose the Cocktail Trio and stock up on three of your favorites, along with a deluxe top coat, for $48. The soy-based nail polish remover is $12. Buy Scotch Naturals 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.


I don’t know about you, but I am constantly bombarded with advertisements about products that will help me obtain more youthful skin. And why not—isn’t that what most of us crave? But as much as we want to believe in a magic cure-all to younger-looking skin, the truth is that it’s all up to how well we take care of ourselves (good diet and lifestyle choices). With all of this in mind, it doesn’t mean I want to stave off specialized body-care products. It’s good to treat your skin with healing oils or vitamins from time to time. Enter Youth Bloom Gel from Larénim Mineral.

Larénim Mineral is a natural makeup and body-care company started by Kristen Corcoran, who developed the product line after struggling with numerous irritable skin issues such as acne, rosacea and expanded pores. This natural beauty line includes a bevy of skin-healing serums as well as a full collection of natural makeup.

Larenim Youth Bloom Serum

Photo courtesy Larénim Mineral

Larénim Mineral’s Youth Bloom Gel Ingredients

This handy little serum is a blend of active ingredients designed to help minimize the appearance of dull, aging skin. Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient it uses.

aloe barbadensis leaf juice, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, citric acid, (lysolecithin, sclerotium gum, xanthan gum, pullulan), (propanediol, ornithine, phospholipids, glycolipids), (*lecithin, carnosine, tocopherol, silybum marianum fruit extract, *alcohol), helianthus annuus (sunflower) sprout extract (and) *sodium benzoate, pantethine, *potassium sorbate, polylysine, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract

Of the ingredients used in this product, only four were flagged for moderate concern by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database: lecithin (ranks 3 to 4; contamination concern with nitrosamines, which ranks 6), alcohol (ranks 3), sodium benzoate (ranks 3) and potassium sorbate (ranks 3).

Two beneficial ingredients that stood out to me were the antioxidants milk thistle extract and sunflower shoot extract. Bright and spiky, milk thistle is best known for improving liver health. These same medicinal benefits may also help benefit the skin. Research from the University of Colorado Cancer Center show that milk thistle extract may protect against skin cancer and photo-aging induced by exposure to UV radiation. Another bright and cheerful flower, sunflower shoot energizes the skin and may delay aging, according to Mibelle AG Biochemistry. This formula is also loaded with amino acids and vitamin E to help boost dull-looking skin.

My Thoughts

As far as serums go this one was a wonderful treat for my skin. It wasn’t too sticky, as serums often are, as well as moisturizing. The cream consistency is a little thick and gelatinous, making it easy to apply. I have been layering it with one of my favorite moisturizers before bedtime, and while I haven’t noticed any major changes to my skin, I enjoy how it makes my skin feel and haven’t had any major breakouts since using it. Plus, this is a preventative product, so I was mostly concerned with how it made my skin feel. It blends well and it’s not scented with fragrance. Instead, it has a natural and light earthy aroma to it. Buy this serum for $26 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.  

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