March 27, 2008

Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser

I recently bought Suki's Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser due to its rave reviews on—where it's 5-star rated and the No. 1-selling skin care product on the entire site. But I didn't buy confidently: Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser contains saponified olive oil (soap), and soap is often drying.

But not this cleanser. Like many reviewers, it left my face surprisingly soft and fresh-looking, and the pores on my nose were visibly smaller.  In the two weeks I've used this cleanser-scrub, my skin has been smoother, more even-toned and blemish-free. Here's why:

Pretty factor: Suki products are 100% natural—there isn't one synthetic ingredient in them. As a result, there is a decreased risk of irritation/reaction.  Rice flour and cane sugar, a natural alpha hydroxy acid, gently remove dead skin cells and increase cellular turnover to reduce zits, fine lines and acne scars.  Fresh herbs like soothing chamomile and pure, steam-distilled essential oils help to rejuvenate and heal the skin.

The cleanser comes in solid form.  To get it to foam up nicely, rub a quarter-size amount between your palms with a little warm water. Then gently massage it onto your face.  It's smells like fresh-squeezed lemonade and will leave your bathroom reminiscent of an organic juice bar!

Eco factor:
Suki products are packaged in eco-friendly materials like recycled stock, vegetable ink and glass (never plastic). Suki supports fair trade, organic and biodynamic processing and local suppliers. Suki is also a member of numerous organizations including the Organic Consumer's Association, Breast Cancer Action and the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics for Responsible Medicine. All products are free of these these ingredients. No animal testing.

To buy: $24.50 at Whole Foods and


March 25, 2008

Tarte Full Blossom Natural Swirl Cheek Stain

Tarte's Spring 2008 collection, "Health Couture", includes an all-natural version of the company's best-selling Cheek Stain, loved by beauty editors for the natural, dewy flush it gives. It's perfect for this fresh, budding time of year.

Natural Swirl Cheek Stain comes in one color, Full Blossom, which is a strawberry pink hue that best suits fair to medium complexions and hair colors.

Pretty Factor: The stain contains an antioxidant-packed T5 Super Fruit Complex composed of acai, goji, pomegranate, acerola and maracuja berry. Shea butter and safflower seed oil moisturize, while carnauba and candelillia wax form a protective barrier between blustery Spring weather and your healthily flushed cheekers.

Eco factor: No parabens, mineral oil or phthalates. Every purchase of a Tarte product that has its new T5 Super Fruit Complex supports the Sambazon Sustainable Acai Project, a Brazilian organization that provides companies worldwide with organic and fair trade acai berry while re-building the Amazon rain forest via planting of acai trees.

To buy: $28 at Sephora stores and


March 20, 2008

A Round-Up of Natural-Based Volumizing Sprays

For the past half-year, I've been on the hunt for a fab eco-friendly volumizing hair spray. The requirements: It must be alcohol-free (no alcohol denat) and it must provide texture and volume without weighing down my hair like an anchor by the end of the day. I have tested:

- JASON Kiwi and Apricot Root Boost: Provided slight texture but absolutely no body and too much stickiness

- John Masters Organics Sea Salt Spray: Gives amazing body and texture, but the large amount of sea salt is too drying and color-stripping for highlighted hair (However, this product is significantly better than Bumble and Bumble's over-priced, water-y Surf Spray.)

- Ojon Plump and Hold Root Lifting Spray: Contains too many chemicals at the top of the ingredients list to be included on Eco*Pretty

- MOP (Modern Organic Products) Glisten Volumizing Spray: Slightly drying but *the runner-up*, $16

- Aveda Brilliant Damage Control™: the winner, surprisingly!

Damage Control
isn't even a "volumizer." It's a heat-protecting pre-blowdry spray. But its impressive, body-building ingredients lead me to buy it.

Pretty factor: PVP copolymers cling to hair and fatten the shaft, while wheat protein, wheat starch and panthenol (vitamin B5) foritify. Certified organic aloe moisturizes fine or thin hair without weighing it down. Organic chamomile soothes locks and scalp and brightens blonde highlights.

The key to using it as a volumizer is to spray onto dry hair. It gave body, light texture and shine—my locks look like I was standing in the sun when I was in fact in dismal NYC apartment lighting.

Eco factor: Aveda's manufacturing facility in Minnesota is powered entirely by wind energy. Its cosmetics contain organic, sustainably sourced, fair trade ingredients. ("Fair trade" means that workers were paid decently and worked in humane conditions.) Most products come in 80 to 100% post-consumer recycled cartons. Also, the company has removed parabens from its products.

To buy: $14 at Aveda concept salons and spas nationwide

March 17, 2008

Just Say Soy: The Dairy-Acne Connection

If you've been battling acne around your jawline and chin that just won't go away, try this simple, very cheap solution: eliminate dairy from your diet.

In December, out of nowhere, I started getting cystic breakouts around my jawline. After my mom commented on them while I was home at Christmas, I booked an appointment with a reputable dermatologist here in NYC.  In the middle of our session, he asked, "Do you consume a lot of dairy?" I was surprised by his question because he isn’t a holistic doc.

"Yes," I said. "Milk on cereal almost every morning and a couple servings of ice cream a week."  (Dang you, Ben & Jerry's!)  I also told him that I had started working at a new publishing company, whose brand of milk in the fridges (which I have on my cereal while reading email every a.m.) was different than at my former company. Would that matter? What’s dairy got to do with it anyway?

To summarize his explanation and subsequent research I did later, since milk is from lactating cows it is loaded with hormones.  Our bodies break down these hormones into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  DHT stimulates the skin's sebaceous glands, increasing oil production.  (Excessive DHT is also responsible for male and female pattern baldness.)  I also learned that hormonal acne typically occurs around the jawline—exactly where my zits were.

I traded in my regular milk for organic soy milk and (painfully) quit ice cream. I was stunned.  Within just three days, the cysts were gone and no new ones were in their place. Even better, my face was significantly less shiny at day's end.

It’s now been two months since I quit milk and ice cream (can't part with cheese), and the jawline breakouts are completely gone.

**By the way, drinking hormone-free milk likely won't keep zits away because all cow milk contains hormones. Hormone-free just means that the cows weren't given extra, synthetic hormones.

March 12, 2008

NEW Aveda Men Pure-formance™ Exfoliating Shampoo and Conditioner

I'm thrilled about Aveda's recently launched Pure-formance™ Exfoliating Shampoo—never mind that it's for guys!

I've been hunting for a scalp exfoliator ever since I had a conversation with a co-worker about hair and she posed the accurate question, "Well, isn't the scalp just an extension of the face?" Hadn't thought of that. Well, what works best for my oily face? Non-comedogenic products and daily exfoliation (which prevents oil and grime from clogging pores and forming zits). So, why not bring that strategy to haircare?

I've been using this shampoo every third day with the Pure-formance™ Conditioner and holy heck! After the first use, my hair was so fluffy—it felt as if years of product build up and clogged scalp pores were cleared.

Pretty factor: Ground walnut shell removes hardened scalp oil, dead skin cells and product buildup, which can clog hair follicles and cause hair loss. Astringent sage extract tones the scalp, while licorice, boswellia (a tree resin), and seaweed soothe and reduce irritation. Hydrogenated castor seed and jojoba oils add moisture without weight. Use once or twice a week.

Eco factor: Aveda's manufacturing facility in Minnesota is powered entirely by wind energy and its products contain organic, sustainably sourced, fair trade ingredients. ("Fair trade" means that workers were paid decently and worked in humane conditions.) Most products come in 80 to 100% post-consumer recycled cartons. Also, the company has phased out parabens from their products.

To buy: $24 at Aveda concept salons and spas nationwide