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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Face Mask Recipe

Fall is here and pumpkin stuff is popping up everywhere! Pumpkin is full of vitamins that your skin needs including zinc, which is one of the most skin-healing minerals in nature. No matter your skin type, you can use pumpkin to keep your skin in good shape through fall and winter. Here are a few recipe options:

For sensitive skin:

1tbsp canned organic pumpkin
a dash of nutmeg

For normal skin:
1 tbsp canned organic pumpkin
a dash of nutmeg
a small dash of cinnamon
a small dash of clove

For oily skin:
add a 1/4 tsp organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar to the "normal skin" recipe

For dry skin:
add a 1/4 tsp organic pumpkin seed oil or other oil (almond, avocado, or olive) to the "normal skin" recipe

Choose the best option for your skin. Whip the listed ingredients together into a paste and smooth it onto clean skin. While very stimulating and circulation-enhancing, cinnamon can be a bit sensitizing so adjust the amounts as you see fit for your particular skin type. And of course, rinse off with tepid water if anything feels uncomfortable.

You can leave this mask on for 20 minutes or so and rinse with warm water. Follow with your usual topical regimen.

This mask leaves your skin smooth and well fed for a healthy glow without the use of chemicals or harsh exfoliators. So you can use it as often as you want!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ralph Lauren Model gets fired for not being thin enough

Ralph Lauren fires model for being too large to fit into clothes. She's a size 4! Yet another reason to not support that company.

read full article here

Thursday, October 15, 2009

skinny with the chance of cupcakes > A Custom Jean from the indiDenim Design Vault

I just found the most amazing new website! If you're like me, the perfect pair of jeans is like the Holy Grail. I have trouble finding jeans that are my favorite color and style, not to mention the right fit for my particular shape. Everyone's different right? indiDenim has an online system that allows you to create the perfect pair of jeans for your preferences and measurements! Check out mine and then make yours!

skinny with the chance of cupcakes > A Custom Jean from the indiDenim Design Vault

Shared via AddThis

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cargo PlantLove Lipsticks

While I try to keep makeup to a minimum during the week, I like to wear some on the weekends or for events, and I'm very choosy.

I only go into Sephora for two things: Bare Minerals Foundation (which is getting better safety ratings on now so I consider it a cheaper and accessible alternative to Zosimos and Coastal Classic Creations) and... Cargo PlantLove Lipsticks. These lipsticks are my new favorite! I've never used another natural lip product like them! They can be worn lightly for a very sheer stain-like look or applied to opaque coverage. There are super natural-looking colors as well as some bolder shades. My faves are Yellowstone, Majella, Lindsay, and CeCe. I wish I could wear more of them including Ageless, Eve Pinky, Maria, and Evangeline, all of which are amazing colors that just aren't gonna work with my particular coloring, which finds the orange in even the bluest of shades.

Cargo PlantLove Lipsticks have recently been reformulated with MUCH cleaner ingredients and they are cruelty-free and vegan as far as I can tell (I frequently pour over the ingredient list to find anything that might be the pinch to wake me up from my vegan natural lipstick dream).

I attribute the excellence of these lipcolors to the fact that they were made by a cosmetics company who knows how makeup should perform, rather than by a natural makeup company that set out to make products that emphasize ingredients while sacrificing function. I want both! And I think these lipsticks are a great option.

So love your natural lips, but if you must dress them up, do it with healthier cosmetic choices.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Plus Size Beauty in Glamour Magazine

The November issue of Glamour has a pretty cool article about recognizing the beauty of bigger bodies. It opens with an amazing photo of several plus sized models wearing nothing but strategically placed body parts. Their bodies are undeniably beautiful despite the fact that they don't measure up to current standards of beauty.

Apparently, there was an overwhelmingly positive response to a photo of a plus sized model bearing some belly rollage in their September issue. I remember this photo (I've been reading these damn magazines lately- I get them for free at work- it's a phase I hope). The picture was not part of a plus-size feature, it was simply used in an article without any mention of body types as I recall. Lots of people wrote in praising this inclusion.

As someone who is slender yet still has trouble being totally comfortable with her curvy areas, I was truly grateful for this article. After seeing this photo and being struck by how lovely these ladies looked to me, I instantly felt more accepting of my own shape.

The article also mentions that they received many negative comments about the September photo. Several people reprimanded Glamour for promoting an "unhealthy" body type and felt it supported poor choices in an already obese country.

Yes, the US has an obesity epidemic, it's true. But as one of the models points out in the article, seeing photos of very thin models and airbrushed celebrities never motivated her to make healthier choices long term. In fact, this tends to result in worsened self image and therefore more destructive choices like drastic dieting, emotional eating, and unsustainable exercise habits. According to the model, it wasn't until she came to embrace her figure that she began to reach a healthy and stable weight.

I don't think Glamour is trying to promote the fastfood approach to beauty, but rather they seem to be taking steps to be more inclusive in their definition of beauty in the first place.

Our healthiest and most beautiful shape is whatever shape we achieve when we exercise regularly and feed our bodies a diet of healthy, fresh foods on a daily basis. For some people that will look like a breastless, buttless, rail thin bean pole. For others it will look like a super curvy plus sized figure. If I can remind myself of this everyday, I'll be set.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Back from the East Coast

I've just come back from a trip to the East Coast (the Carolinas and New York City) and thought I'd better post something.

New York was AWESOME. It's definitely on my list of places to live someday. Everyone there is so well-dressed and beautiful that I found myself wearing full makeup everyday and caring more about my appearance, which is kind of lame of me, but practically irresistible in the fashion capital of the country. So I'm partly glad to be back in the East Bay where the maximum level of effort is combed hair (or not) and yoga clothes for most people.

product reviews and recipes to come shortly...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Obesity and Prescription Drugs

Today I saw an article about America's Top 10 most medicated states and I decided to research what the top 10 fattest states might be. According to the most recent info I could find, the findings were very similar:

10 Most Medicated States:
1. West Virginia
2. Alabama
3. South Carolina
4. Tennessee
5. Arkansas
6. Missouri
7. Kentucky
8. Louisiana
9. Mississippi
10. Iowa

10 Fattest States
1. Mississippi
2. Alabama
3. West Virginia
4. Tennessee
5. South Carolina
6. Oklahoma
7. Kentucky
8. Louisiana
9. Michigan
10. Arkansas/Ohio

The top 3 drugs sold last year were:

Lipitor- a cholesterol control drug
Nexium- an acid reflux drug
Plavix- an anti-platelet drug to prevent strokes and heart attacks

The obvious thing that this comparison shows is that obesity and lifestyle-related health problems are the motivation for most of this prescription use. But more importantly, it seems to indicate that these things are not working!

With the rampant prescription use in this country, we should be in better health over the years if these pills do what they say they are going to do. Certainly, that is how doctors prescribe them. As someone who is watching so many of my family members take part in the use of these dangerous drugs (I feel that I can pretty freely call them dangerous considering an anti-platelet drug was listed as one of the causes of death on my dad's death certificate), I can say with confidence that they are not helping.

The problem is, the average American has NO CLUE how to eat a healthy well-rounded, disease-preventative diet. And it's not entirely our fault. Just like the beauty industry, we have companies and organizations telling us the wrong things. We are being told that refined grain products, conventional meat, and dairy are all acceptable foods to eat freely. And the greatest lie we're being told is that processed, packaged, and convenience foods are foods at all.

So just as consumers need to be ruthlessly savvy about lipstick ingredients, so too do we need to be about our food. And the same rules apply. If it isn't 100% whole food that readily grows or exists in nature and is free of all synthetics, additives, isolates, fortifiers, etc., then it is not serving our health. Real food is true medicine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Does Beauty Sell?

How interesting! Check out this little article on a study that was done about how a salesperson's looks can affect the female customer's desire to shop.

I have certainly experienced days when I feel kinda gross and don't feel confident enough to interact with salespeople comfortably. I'm sure MANY women have such healthy self images that they never experience this phenomenon. But I know that many women do.

But we shouldn't! Ever! Biological or not, we need to appreciate ourselves enough to not feel that we're in competition with other women. Rather, we should feel a sense of comradeship, especially in such sacred places as fitting rooms for f***sake!

It's possible that the postulation that this is a biological response is correct. But I'm inclined to think that we are so competitive with other women because we've been brought up in a culture that demands that women strive for a specific brand of physical perfection in order to be desirable to men. The pressure placed on the average women to engage in this is overwhelming and totally destructive to our feelings of self worth.

The question at the end of the article is: What should companies choose to do?

The real question is: What should we do? How can we change this dynamic? How can we change (or immunize ourselves from) the culture that promotes this dynamic?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

DIY Organic Facial Mask

Here's an easy recipe for a calming pore-cleansing facial mask. This is a good recipe for inflamed skin and skin that is oily or prone to blemishes and pore congestion.

2 tsp Organic Oat Flower
Water as needed
lavender essential oil
chamomile essential oil
tea tree essential oil
(or essential oils of your choice)

mix the oat flour with some water, starting with a very small amount at first, to make a paste. The paste should be very spreadable, not goopy. Add water until you reach this consistency.

Next, add just a couple drops of each essential oil and mix into the flour/water paste.

Apply to damp skin and massage it over your face gently to cleanse and get a little exfoliation out of the process.

Then leave the mask on until it dries (or if you have dry skin, leave it on until it's almost dry and then rinse).

Rinse with warm water. Follow with your usual products.

I use this mask when my skin is hormonal or congested and it quickly reduces redness and calms inflammation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Skin Care Pantry

Despite working for one of the purest skin care lines in the US, I still find myself making my own stuff out of simple ingredients just for fun and to curtail them to my own skin's needs. Making DIY bodycare can be easy and very economical, even when using really high quality organic ingredients. Below are items that I always keep in my skin care "pantry":

Aloe Juice (you can get 99% organic aloe vera juice from health food stores and Trader Joe's)- I drink a cup of this every morning and mist it on as a toner twice a day so I buy it in gallon jugs. It's super detoxifying and refreshing

Organic Brown Rice Flour- In the palm of your hand, mix some into your face cleanser to make a very gentle yet effective exfoliator

Organic Oat Flour- Mix with water to create a paste. This makes a great, slightly exfoliating, wash for oily skin. It's very absorbent and anti-inflammatory

Epsom Salts and Sea Salts- I always have this on hand for bath salts and to mix with oils and essential oils for body scrubs

Bentonite Clay- cheap and very therapeutic. It is purifying and toxin-flushing so it's great as a mask.

Oils- I keep a variety of good organic unrefined plant oils on hand to make hydrating elixirs for face and body. Some of my faves are jojoba, pumpkin seed, safflower, and apricot seed oils. Pure plant oils feed and heal the skin unlike any lotion on the market.

Essential Oils- I keep a variety of organic steam-distilled essential oils to make scented products and to create treatments for just about anything. Good basics to have are Tea Tree, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Mandarin, etc. Some of my favorites are vetiver, basil, cedar, and sandalwood.

Tea- Teabags make convenient steam facials and tea internally and topically is amazing for the skin.

Bodycare is like cooking- you always save money and make good quality stuff when you "cook" at home rather than buying pre-made things. And you have complete control over what you put on your body!

Next will be some easy DIY recipes...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blah, Blah, Blog

I have decided to recommit myself to this blog after a year away from it.

There are two main reasons that I neglect this poor blog- the first is that I've been blogging for the company I work for and I often lack the energy at the end of the day to blog here. So I will do my best to avoid letting Work prevent me from sharing here from now on.

The second is that now and then I feel like a total hack. My very motivation for starting this blog is what occasionally keeps me from feeling qualified to post on it: I am one of many women that has an ongoing struggle against the effects of growing up in a culture that is obsessed with beauty, youth, and bodily perfection at any cost to our health and happiness. I sometimes think "How can I possibly share advice with women like myself while I frequently fail to practice what I preach when it comes to self-acceptance?" But my goal is to write the kind of blog that I need to read as I can only assume that there are countless girls and women (and guys too!) who feel the same way I do.


Regular posts are on their way. Any requests for content related to products, recipes, wellness, herbs, etc? Send them to me in an email or comment.