Sunday, May 2, 2010

Natural DIY Deodorant

I think I'm going to abandon this blog for good this time, and for my final post- a product that I consider a personal Holy Grail that I am truly grateful for: a natural deodorant that really works. I haven't bought deodorant from a store in at least a year now that I have this. Follow this easy recipe that was inspired by one by Dana Petersen Murphy:

2 T Coconut Oil
1 tsp Shea Butter

Melt these to liquid in a double boiler. Remove from heat.


2 T Cornstarch
2 1/2 T Baking Soda

Mix into a paste. Add essential oils or leave unscented. This will firm up but it may need to be refrigerated in hot weather, especially if you're pouring it into an old deodorant stick. But I actually prefer to keep it in a jar and use it as a paste. I take about a large pea-sized amount and distribute it between the fingertips of both hands, then apply directly! A little goes a long way, use less if it is visible under arms.

This stuff truly keeps you smelling fresh and unlike other natural deodorants, it keeps you dry too. It is not invisible on fabric, so if it gets on your shirt while dressing, just rub the fabric with another section of fabric until it disappears (same old trick that you use for conventional deodorant).

Try it this summer and adjust amounts of ingredients as necessary to fit your preferences.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Diva Cup

Just a quick post to express my true love. If you get periods, get a Diva Cup, or tell your period-getting friends to get one. You'll probably hate the Diva Cup at first and think it's impossible to use and then you'll want to marry it.

Go to their website to learn more.

Also, if you have major PMS symptoms or very painful cramps, try the following:

-Follow the Anti-Inflammatory Diet from the post below, at least for the week prior to your period. Avoid salty and processed foods.

-Make sure you're getting enough calcium and magnesium. Calcium can help with mood issues like depression as well as cramps.

-Try these yoga postures to relieve cramps

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eat for Beauty: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

(This was written for another website I'm working on but it pertains to holistic beauty practices so I thought I'd post it here too. To all the vegan readers, you may need to put on the earmuffs here and there because I do mention animal consumption without being totally disparaging. Don't freak out on me, I haven't become a Lierre Kieth follower, haha).

For a toned physique, a clear healthy complexion, bright eyes, shiny hair, and skin that ages chronologically rather than prematurely, you've got to feed your body well. And the foods to focus on might surprise you a bit if you grew up with the USDA Food Pyramid like most of us did. The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not a calorie-counting, low-fat, bland, boring eating plan. It is a nutritious and rejuvenating way of nourishing your body with delicious foods that keep you satisfied, energized, and looking completely radiant. Based on the research and writings of Dr. Floyd H. Chilton, Dr. Nicholas Perricone, and to some extent, Dr. Mary Enig, the simplified information below may be the best health and beauty tool you will ever find and has forever changed the way I eat.*

It should be made clear that the Anti-Inflammatory diet is based on some revolutionary ideas and a truly holistic understanding of the body. The basis of this diet is that it is not high cholesterol or fats or merely eating too much that makes our bodies unhealthy and causes disease. The real culprit is chronic inflammation on the cellular level in our bodies. You may not be able to see this inflammation from the outside, but if you're eating inflammatory foods, it is almost certainly present in your cells.

While the body's inflammatory response is perfectly natural and necessary when it needs to protect and repair itself, too much or too often is harmful. Chronic cellular inflammation is thought to be the underlying cause disease, obesity to some extent, and premature aging and wrinkles (among other skin problems). Inflammation can be caused by stress, chemicals, and most commonly by eating the wrong foods. Western cultures like ours have simply been doing it all wrong since the advent of industrial agriculture that brought us grains and refined foods. Read on to learn about all the amazing foods you should be eating as well as the ones you should avoid for gorgeous skin and a healthy body.

Vegetables: Low starch veggies like dark leafy greens (kale, collards, spinach, dark lettuce, etc), broccoli, asparagus, and cabbage pack some of the highest nutrient content of all foods and are very anti-inflammatory. Your day should be brimming with these and ideally they should be present at every meal! A great way to work veggies into your morning is to add them to a scramble or throw some spinach into a fruit smoothie.

You should limit or avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and corn as these contribute to inflammation by breaking down as simple carbs in the body.

Nuts and Seeds: Raw and organic (and ideally soaked for several hours) nuts and seeds are an incredible source of vitamins, minerals, good fats, and protein. Particularly if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, nuts and seeds should be an essential part of your daily food plan. My personal favorites are almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax.

Fruits: Nature's candy! Is there anything more wonderful than fruit? Enjoy a couple of fresh servings each day. When it comes to preventing inflammation - berries are especially helpful.

Fish: For those that eat meat, high quality fish is an excellent choice. It is high in essential fatty acids and is a good source of protein and other nutrients that plump up the skin and help it to resist aging and blemishing. Any fish you eat should always be labeled "Wild" and salmon is highly recommended.

Legumes: All beans and lentils are so ultra-nutritious and fiber-rich that they offset their carbohydrate factor. They are such complex carbohydrates that they provide your body with energy and fuel without having a negative impact on blood sugar or causing inflammation. A great source of iron for vegans!

Meat and Poultry/Eggs: Another good source of protein and fats for those who do not follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Any meat you eat should be labeled as certified organic and grass fed (not vegetarian/grain fed).

Dairy: Yogurt, kefir, and some cheeses like cottage cheese can play a helpful role in your diet, but ensure that these are also organic and free of sugar. Yogurt and kefir are especially beneficial due to their natural probiotic content. If you choose vegan yogurt, remember to check that it is unsweetened.

Grains: Although the USDA recommends many servings of grains each day, most grains cause blood sugar spikes and a huge inflammatory response. Compared to other foods, they have a low nutrient content with a more negative impact on the body. It can be very helpful for your skin and health to avoid wheat and wheat flours, rice, and corn. Opt instead for two very complex ancient grains: buckwheat groats and plain oats (no sugar added).

Oils: Coconut Oil and Olive Oil are great sources of healthy fats that give your skin a beautiful glow. I prefer to use coconut oil when cooking because it is more stable when heated and resists free radical production. Coconut Oil is an incredible food. It is heart-healthy despite its saturated fat content and has even been found to contribute to weight loss!

Herbs and Spices: These are the key to flavoring all the foods mentioned above to create delicious dishes. Most herbs and spices are not only anti-inflammatory, but are also germ-fighters and detoxifiers. Rely first on flavoring foods properly with these before you add more salt or sweetness. Use freely.

Sugar: Speaking of sweetness, sugar is your worst enemy when it comes to a healthy body and youthful skin. Sugar and anything containing sugar, corn syrup, cane juice, maple syrup, etc., wreak havoc on our bodies and comprise one of the biggest contributors to aging skin. Furthermore, the more we eat these sweet things, the more we want them because our bodies develop almost insatiable cravings for sugar and simple carbs when they are present in our diets. Eliminating sugar from your diet could be the single best thing you ever do for your body, and once you've done it for awhile, the cravings completely subside. Indulge in fresh fruit instead! When you really need a sweetener that behaves like sugar, opt for the natural alternatives: stevia or erithrytol.

Other Things to Avoid to Prevent Inflammation: Alcohol, caffeine (except in green/white tea), coffee, processed and fast foods, fried foods, packaged foods, preservatives and stabilizers, vegetable oils (like corn, soybean, and canola), food coloring, and artificial sweeteners.

Additional Tips: Drink at least 64 oz of pure water each day, get your beauty sleep, emphasize raw foods in your diet, invest in high quality supplements like those from New Chapter and Vitamin Code, and treat yourself to regular exercise. All of these reduce inflammation to keep your skin and body in optimal shape.

To learn more about the anti-inflammatory diet, read Dr. Chilton's Inflammation Nation or any of Dr. Perricone's books.*

*Consult a doctor or nutritionist before making any changes to your diet, especially if you have been diagnosed with any health conditions or take any prescriptions.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Amazing Aloe

In 2009, I have discovered the joys of two amazing ingredients that I now use every single day. Aloe Vera Juice and Unrefined Coconut Oil. This post is about aloe. I'll save coconut oil for next time.

Aloe Vera is a desert succulent plant with a tough green exterior and a translucent fleshy interior. While we usually see aloe sold in bottles looking like bright green gel, this is not actually its natural state. Color, gelling agents, stabilizers, preservatives, and even fragrance may be added to aloe juice to create that emerald concoction we see on store shelves. True aloe vera is a clear gelatinous fillet cut straight from the plant or is also available as pure juice. You can find gallon jugs of aloe vera juice (99% organic aloe vera juice with citric acid/potassium sorbate or some other food grade preservative) at Trader Joe's or health food stores like Whole Foods.

Most of us know that aloe is an excellent remedy for sunburns and rashes. But it does sooo much more than that! Here are some of aloe's wonderful benefits:

- Anti-inflammatory topically and internally
- Anti-bacterial
- Anti-viral!
- Anti-fungal
- Detoxifying topically and internally
- Amino Acid, Vitamin and Mineral-rich
- Immune Boosting
- Scar Healing/Tissue Repairing
- Promotes Healthy Digestion

About a year ago, my facialist and I were talking about my very difficult skin that has for years been prone to inflammation and cystic breakouts due to hormones, stress, etc. She said "Hey, do you ever drink aloe juice? It just occurred to me that this might be helpful to you." This thought was based on the fact, I think, that she perceived my skin concerns to be emotionally-seated and the result of a fire/liver imbalance (ayurvedically speaking). The day of her recommendation, I went out and bought a jug of organic aloe vera juice and began drinking the recommended serving of 2 to 8 ounces each day. Let me tell you, it's got a strong tart taste that strikes you as fairly unpleasant. I recommend mixing it with a 100% juice at first. I promise it gets easier.

I now drink 6 oz each morning mixed with 6 oz of water. Not only have I gotten used to the taste, but I now crave it if I have to go without. On a trip to New York, I had to run into a Whole Foods in Manhattan for a small bottle of pure aloe vera juice and could hardly wait to crack it open outside! I also mist it onto my face twice a day in place of a toner.

As, for the benefits I experienced? Aloe has been the number one factor in helping to clear up my skin, minimize pores and scarring, and reduce hyperpigmentation and redness. In fact, I went went without it for a month and my skin began to backslide, but quickly cleared up as I started drinking it again a couple of weeks ago. This effect inspired me to blog about this amazing plant! I also recently learned that my great aunt, who has now outlived all her siblings, drinks aloe vera juice every single day. I will follow her example and keep it a part of my morning for the rest of my life as I can't say enough good things about aloe and I encourage others to try it if they feel it may help them too.

Just like with any supplement, check with your doctor before taking it internally.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Natural Exfoliator Recipe and Exfoliation Advice

I have been experimenting over the past several weeks with a simple blend to help skin with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, sun spots, acne and pore congestion and have had great success.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Aloe are both excellent for clearing blemishes and fading pigmentation associated with blemishes, sun exposure, age, and hormonal changes.

Mix 1 tsp Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with

5 tsp Organic pure aloe vera juice (not gel)- you can buy this in $8 gallons from Trader Joe's)

For Sensitive or over-processed skin:

Use 1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar and 8 tsp Aloe Vera Juice

Mix the two ingredients and apply to clean skin patting gently with a cotton ball (don't scrub or drag the cotton ball over the skin) or just with your fingers taking care not to get any in your eyes. If you experience noticeable itching or burning, then you should rinse immediately. Leave this on for two minutes- no longer! Rinse with tepid water. Mist the skin with pure aloe juice and follow with your moisturizer. Store the rest in the fridge. Use no more than 3 times per week with at least two full days between applications. Do not use any other scrubs or exfoliators if you add this treatment to your skin care routine. Protect your skin with a Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide sunscreen during the day.

Your skin may look rosy in the areas you treated with this mix for a couple of hours after application, so I recommend doing this at night. If redness is severe, persists for a long time, or if your skin feels uncomfortable, you should use less apple cider vinegar in your mix and leave it on for less than two minutes.

The key to successful exfoliation is restraint! Just because your skin looks great the day after this 2 minute treatment, this does not mean it will look even better if you use a stronger mix or use it more often. ACV and aloe may be natural ingredients, but they are very active- especially the apple cider vinegar. ACV should never be applied undiluted. This is serious business! So if you stray from this recipe, only do so by reducing the ACV, not increasing it.

UPDATE!! After using this recipe for many weeks, I find best results using it only twice a month, so this is the frequency of use I recommend for the greatest benefit.

Whether using this mix or another exfoliator, watch for signs of excessive exfoliation.

Symptoms of Over-Processed or Over-Exfoliated Skin:

- Skin that is oily yet dry at the same time.

- Feeling the need to exfoliate very frequently

- Flakiness, itchiness, and redness or red patches

- Excessive dryness or excessive oiliness

- Peeling and irritation

- Chronic acne breakouts

- Pore congestion accompanied by general inflammation

- Heightened sensitivity to the sun

- A feeling of thinned skin over time

Giving your skin a break from excessive exfoliation can yield a clear, plump, smooth complexion that maintains its natural balance and defies premature signs of aging.

Tips for Breaking the Cycle:

- Try backing off gradually. If you exfoliate everyday, cut down to every other day, and then ease off to less and less frequent treatments.

- Massage instead. Facial massage actually helps lift away build up, enhances circulation, stimulates the skin for increased collagen production, and improves pore function. If you are using a creamy cleanser, you can massage for a full minute or more while cleansing. You can also massage with a light oil or an organic and very emollient cream or lotion.

- Drink enough water. That feeling of needing to exfoliate to work through congested or rough skin is often a result of insufficient hydration. 64 oz per day of pure water can do wonders for the skin.

- Resist the urge! If your skin has become addicted to exfoliation, you may find yourself just dying to exfoliate. During the process of allowing your skin to find its equilibrium, it may be very hard to abstain from your scrubs and peels at first. But your skin will gradually come back into balance and feel healthy and calm.

Mild, very occasional exfoliation can have a very positive impact on your skin. But you have to commit to the "less is more" principle in order to see long term benefits. Properly cared for skin should be calm, comfortable, supple, and look radiant. If you feel anything less than this result, contact me by leaving a comment to this post or via email so that I can help you make adjustments to this recipe for your skin's special needs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I had the opportunity recently to try out DermaBrush Makeup Brushes from DermaMinerals (Dermaquest, Inc.) and I have to say I was very impressed! DermaMinerals states that these brushes are 100% vegan, hypoallergenic, and non-shedding. The first thing I noticed was their texture - they certainly are as soft as can be. Then I began pulling on the bristles to put that non-shedding claim to the test, and the brushes showed no sign of loose hairs then or over the course of days of use.

But the most exciting part was that they really are better than others I’ve used in the past (I’ve used both expensive natural hair brushes and budget synthetic brushes). The Dual Define Brush is a cool double-ended brush with a soft rounded head for applying eye shadow and a stiffer blunt head for applying liners or blending penciled liner. I was surprised how much I liked this brush and was able to use it for shadow, liner, and brow color. These brushes allow for buildable color and are very easy on the skin.

The kabuki brush actually improved the function of my mineral foundation. This super soft brush deposits just the right amount of makeup to give you good coverage while still making it hard to tell that you are wearing anything at all. This is the only powder brush I will use from now on.

While DermaMinerals makeup and DermaQuest skin care is not at all natural, the brushes are a great find. They make all my natural makeup work even better. There are few if any high-quality, soft, vegan makeup brushes out there like DermaBrushes. Good brushes should last for decades and I think these are a worthwhile investment.

Find them at

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Chemical Confession

I'm officially a sellout and a hypocrite. Yesterday I walked right into an Aveda store with my credit card practically leaping out of my wallet. After endlessly searching the inventory on Aveda's website and cross-referencing it to, I still weirded out the sales girls by reading the ingredient list of every item in the store at least once (and it turns out some of the products have been made cleaner since they were put in the datatbase) before making my choices.

Don't get me wrong, I love the one truly natural hair care line that I believe in: Morrocco Method. It's incredible! And I will still recommend it first and foremost. But as my hair grew longer, I literally couldn't afford to have enough of it shipped to me. So I ventured into the land of health food store shampoo with little success. After trying a few different brands, my hair still felt dry and was so prone to tangling that I felt like a little girl again having to sit still and not squeal while my mom ran a comb through my knotty locks.

So I gave up on the "low hazard" options and returned to the realm of "moderate hazard" green-washed hair products that occupy the shelves of serene "concept stores" rather than the fluorescent lit aisles between the canned goods and the vitamins, reminding myself that hair care will be the one and only place I break the rules a little bit. The result? Few to no tangles, smoother, shinier hair, and just a little pang of guilt.

I still chose options that did not contain parabens or phenoxyethanol in their long lists of other crappy ingredients. But I can't help but think of what my Dad used to say- "Do as I say, not as I do."

Despite this transgression, I still feel qualified to continue this blog about natural beauty choices for women; though apparently I value silky hair over my health? Vanity wins this round.