January 30, 2009

NEW Almay Pure Blends Makeup Review

Looking better fit in a garden than fluorescent-lit drugstores, Almay's new Pure Blends natural makeup caught my eye from all the way across a Walgreens. Regardless of how it performed, I'm one of those aesthete suckers who would buy the line for the sole purpose of it looking pretty in my makeup bag. But not only are the goods affordable but their quality (except for the mascara!) is as lovely as the packaging.

Have any of you tried the line? What did you think?

Pretty factor: Every product (all hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested) contains antioxidant-rich lotus, orchid, papaya and acai extracts. The petal-pretty blushes and smooth eye shadows are infused with mica to give subtle shimmer. Natural-hued lip glosses moisturize with a generous amount of sweet almond oil. Most impressively, the liquid foundation contains jojoba oil to hydrate and decongest pores and squalene to soothe and nourish skin tissue. My only complaint is that it lacks SPF.

Unfortunately, the mascara greatly disappointed. The thin brush gives zero volume and the formula was dry and flaky.

Eco factor: Pure Blends products contain over 95% natural ingredients with no parabens, talc, or artificial fragrance. They come in packaging made with 35% to 45% post-consumer recycled material

To buy: $7.50 to $13 at drugstores nationwide and drugstore.com

January 29, 2009

NEW Juice Beauty USDA Organic Facial Moisture Concentrate Review

There’s nothing better on a freshly exfoliated face than a really effective moisturizer, especially in January. I have normal to oily skin, so I’m hesitant to try oil-based products (even though they can actually reduce sebum production). But also, I’m afraid they'll take forever to absorb, making it a nightmare to apply my mineral foundation in the morning.

Still, I was excited to try the new USDA Organic Facial Moisture Concentrate from Juice Beauty. It didn't disappoint. It absorbed easily into my skin and I was astounded by how smooth and velvety it left my face—not at all greasy, even at midday.
Pretty Factor: This serum hydrates and plumps with fatty acids from organic plant oils, including evening primrose and borage seed. It regenerates skin tissue with cranberry, grape seed and carrot seed extracts plus helichrysum essential oil. As it warms in your hands you get a strong whiff of olive oil (one of the main ingredients), but as you apply the product to your face, you're left with the soothing aroma of geranium essential oil....

Use on slightly damp skin and warm in your palms before applying.
Eco factor: Juice Beauty's new USDA-certified organic collection contains over 95% organically produced ingredients and meets the National Organic Program's strict guidelines. No parabens, synthetic fragrances, petroleum derivatives, artificial dyes, harsh sulfates, or phthalates. Juice Beauty's facilities are solar-powered, their containers are made from recycled content, and they get many of their organic ingredients from small farmers.

To Buy:
$36 at Sephora, Whole Foods and juicebeauty.com

Jen from Skin Rhythm

January 27, 2009

GIVEAWAY! Quixtar/Amway's clear.now™ Acne Treatment Lotion

R.I.P. John Updike. I've been reading his literary criticisms in the New Yorker for years. My heart takes a plunge and a feeling of anxiety briefly hits me when I hear about the deaths of great novelists like him or Norman Mailer. Who will succeed them? I appreciate the endless information and democratic spirit of the blogosphere, certainly. But its 24/7 nature largely disables the kind of writing that it stops you post-sentence or post-paragraph and beckons you to re-read and re-read again because it's so achingly beautiful.

But onto Eco*Pretty's first-ever product giveaway! Last week I was organizing my beauty cabinet and found an extra Quixtar/Amway clear.now Acne Treatment Lotion, a dermatologist-worthy, natural blemish moisturizer that I reviewed here last summer...and I'd like to give it away!

To enter: Leave a thoughtful comment anywhere on the site, then shoot a blank e-mail to ecopretty at gmail dot com. I'll draw from a bowl of the first 10 comments and will e-mail the winner, requesting his or her address. Good luck!

January 26, 2009

Burt's Bees Avocado Butter Pre-Shampoo Hair Treatment

Forget the "political machine." Forget governor Rod Blagojevich trying to sell Obama's Senate seat. Chicago's real evil is its winter weather. I'm coming to believe there's a conspiracy to extract every last drop of moisture from my skin and hair this year. Since moving here, where it's about 14° outside and 80° in, I've had to upgrade my body wash, skin care and now hair care.

Last year, I adored John Masters Organics Honey & Hibiscus reconstructing shampoo and treatment but can't do the prices this time around. Thankfully there's Burt's Bees Avocado Butter Pre-Shampoo Hair Treatment, an oldie but goodie intensive moisturizer. And bonus: Thanks to the inclusion of oat flour, a natural volumizer, it gives locks extra fullness.

Pretty factor: Avocado and olive oils—rich in hair-nourishing essential fatty acids plus vitamin E—create softness and shine and keep frizz away. Oat flour soothes the scalp and naturally plumps up strands. Nettle and rosemary encourage hair growth. Real citrus rind oil aromatizes and dissolves winter blahs.

Tip: You must use as directed—wet hair first, then apply. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes (perfect time to shave your legs), then rinse and shampoo and condition as usual.

Eco factor: For over 20 years, Burt's Bees has made beauty products that are nearly 100% natural (they tell you the exact percentage on the package) and come in post-consumer recycled material. Never animal testing. In 2003, co-founder Roxanne Quimby bought a 24,000-acre tract of forest in Maine for preservation.

To buy: $9.49 at drugstores and Whole Foods nationwide

January 22, 2009

Eco*Pretty: Recession Edition

Welcome to the recession edition of Eco*Pretty everyone. In light of the economic climate, I'm going to focus on wallet-friendly products and at-home treatments for the next few months. Quality won't be compromised. Featured products will be just as performing as higher-end options. Pricier cosmetics will still be included de temps en temps but 1) they'll have to be ridiculously stellar and 2) they'll usually appear with a more affordable option (e.g. "splurge" versus "save").

I've created a section, "Affordable beauty", in the left column that's populated with every product under $20 that I've ever reviewed. Thank you to my friend Lydia, who's been using solely drugstore-brand natural products for the past year and is helping me with ideas!

January 20, 2009

Natural Treatments for Dark Circles

Happy inauguration day, readers!  It's been a goosebumps-giving treat to be able to work from home and watch the historic events in D.C.

But onto today's post: treating under-eye circles! The Obamas aren't the only Americans likely getting less than their recommended eight hours of sleep a night these days.  Few of us are.  As a result, those stubborn, bluish half moons under our eyes are becoming ubiquitous.

Dark circles are caused by a plethora of factors: allergies, irritation, heredity, thinning skin from collagen loss as we age, and lack of sleep.  As a result, they're notoriously difficult to treat.  But there are steps you can take to improve them:

1) Get more sleep. Since moving to Chicago and getting better rest than in rat-race NYC, my under-eye circles have noticeably lightened.

2) Invest in a moisturizing, vitamin K-based eye cream.  Hydration helps reduce dark circles' appearance, while vitamin K aids blood coagulationit helps moves the blood pooled in capillaries under the eyes.  Here are my must-try products:

Splurge: Naturopathica Vitamin K Brightening Eye Cream. This is the best, most elegant eye product I've triedand I've tested a lot!  It boasts vitamin K and elderberry extract to lighten dark circles plus camellia, grape seed, and sea buckthorn oils to luxuriously moisturize and nourish.  Finally, mica and silk powder refract light, making you look more awake.  $72 at naturopathica.com.

JASON Vitamin K Crème Plus. This recently reformulated cream (now paraben-free) employs vitamin K, bioflavonoids, horse chestnut, and chamomile to minimize bruises, redness, spider veins and yep, under-eye circles.  It can be used on the entire face (it's a favorite of those with rosacea) or as a dark circle-lightening eye cream. $18 for a 2 oz tube at drugstore.com and Whole Foods.

Jane Iredale Active Light Concealer.  I've gone through three tubes of this wander wand since discovering it two years ago.  Read my review here!

January 15, 2009

NEW Jane Iredale Zap&Hide Blemish Concealer

Over the course of this blog, a few readers have asked me to review popular products that I didn't like. I haven't because, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

However, I recently tried a product so surprisingly disappointing and overpriced—and from one of my favorite brands!—that I had to oblige. After all, I'm here to serve you. It's Jane Iredale's new Zap&Hide Blemish Concealer.

Cons: My first complaint with Zap&Hide is that you get minimal product for a preposterous price, $25.  It has two ends: a clear, blemish treatment end and a tinted concealer end—both are barely an inch long.  Then, there's performance. The treatment half is very waxy. Jane Iredale claims the product isn't occlusive (aka it won't sit on your skin's surface and clog pores).   But I wouldn't be comfortable applying it to breakouts every day. The concealer end was worse. The one I received was hard, dry and un-blendable.  I had to rub the stick on my face three times before I noticed any concealing.

Pros: Tea tree and lavender oils kill acne-causing bacteria and lend a soothing scent.  I would've liked to have seen actual acne-reducing ingredients like salicylic acid or willow bark.

Eco factor: No talc, parabens, phthalates, bismuth oxychloride, or chemical dyes or fragrance. Last year, Jane Iredale instated a Green Team to help environmentalize the company and it's building a new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) office building.

To buy: $25 at janeiredaledirect.com

January 13, 2009

100% Pure Organic Acai Berry Anti-Aging Eye Cream

My mom looks fantastic for her 57 years.  She has nearly poreless, creamy skin with just light crow's feet around her eyes—which is remarkable for a woman whose only dermatological help has been a simple Mary Kay skin regime for two decades. 

But she's been fighting tired, puffy eyes recently and asked me to research a cream that might help. Anything for you, Mom. Your winner: 100% Pure Organic Acai Berry Anti-Aging Eye Cream.

Pretty factor:
The base of this cream is organic white tea—not H20 like most cosmetics—which protects skin from oxidative stress (e.g. sun and pollution).  It's followed by organic cucumber juice, an anti-inflammatory and reputed puffiness reducer, then a load of antioxidant-packed fruits: blueberry, blackberry, pomegranate, and acai.  Beeswax, cocoa butter, and avocado butter lend supple hydration.

Store in the frig. The coldness restricts blood vessels and reduces the flow of fluids to the under-eye area.

Eco factor:
100% Pure products lack parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, sulfates or other harsh detergents, propylene glycol, PEGs, animal by-products, filler ingredients (e.g. thickeners and emulsifiers), artificial colors or fragrance, or genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)

To buy:
$25 at some Bath & Body Works stores and 100percentpure.com

January 8, 2009

Best Face Exfoliator in a Recession (or in a Pinch): Sugar in the Raw

"When the going gets tough, the tough get resourceful," mama always says. I recently put her wisdom to use...on my face.  Four words, five syllables: Sugar in the Raw...mixed with your face cleanser.  Here's the scoop (pun intended):

I hadn't used a face scrub since running out of my former one several weeks ago.  I'm a frequent exfoliator, but am working only part-time on a new media startup and money is tight like a belt on Thanksgiving.

The other night, I noticed tiny flakes under my eyes and the overall pallor of an Addams Family member. I remembered that exfoliation is especially important in the winter because skin cells turn over less often in colder weather and can build up to cause dullness (and clog pores).

What could I use? Aha! Remembering Suki's best-selling Lemongrass exfolating cleanser, I headed to the kitchen and grabbed a packet of Sugar in the Raw.  I mixed it with Evan Healy's Tea Tree Gel Cleanser and gently massaged around my face for a minute then rinsed.

My face was a little ruddy afterward—but baby-bottom smooth.  I applied a soothing moisturizer and went to bed.  I kid not, I woke up to the most youthful-looking skin I've had in months.

Pretty factor: Sugar is not only a physical exfoliator but a "chemical" one, too—sugar cane is the natural source of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that's used in skin care products for its resurfacing properties.  It helps reduce fine lines and acne by promoting cellular turnover. As a result, many face and body scrubs are sugar cane-based.

Eco factor: 100% natural, zero harsh or toxic chemicals

To buy: $14 for an entire box at Whole Foods and sugarintheraw.com.  Grab an extra packet from Starbucks and try it!

January 6, 2009

Cargo PlantLove™ Baked Illuminator

January. It's the time of year when any remaining sun and life from summer seem to have migrated from my face to Florida. Bronzer seems too harsh for winter, and blush doesn't enliven enough. But a couple weeks ago, I discovered a lovely marriage. Well, it's more like a polygamous marriage: Cargo PlantLove™ Baked Illuminator—a bronzer, blush and highlighter in one.

Pretty factor:
The blend of eight-hour-baked terra cotta colors give a natural-looking Palm Beach warmth. Moisturizing and fatty acid-rich oils from sunflower, grape seed, and rosehip prevent that chalky appearance common to some mineral makeup. Available in three shades: "Fire" (shown here) for fair skin tones, "Wind" for medium tones, and "Earth" for dark tones.

Skim your brush lightly around the entire pot—a little goes a long way

Eco factor:
No parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, or synthetic fragrance or dyes. Comes in a cool biodegradable box.

To buy:
$28 at Sephora and sephora.com

January 1, 2009

Detox from the Holidays: The Republic of Tea Be Well Get Clean Tea

Happy New Year everyone. I hope this post finds you wide-eyed and well and not lying on your living room floor moaning. I'm feeling pretty good. "It's a new dawn, a new day, a new life." (fabulous Nina Simone song)

But for those who are reeling from the effects of drinking too much or consuming mostly sugar since Thanksgiving, drag yourself to the store and buy some Republic of Tea Get Clean. When I feel icky, I do two things: one, exercise more. Two, forgo caffeine and alcohol for three days and instead drink two cups of this Get Clean tea daily. And I always feel better.

"Pretty" factor: Get Clean tea contains a base of organic rooibos (red tea from South Africa), which is caffeine-free, has more antioxidants than green tea, and is rich in vitamin C. Its earthy, mildly nutty flavor makes it a good coffee substitution. Milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root, and red clover help purify the blood and aid the liver and kidneys in processing toxins. As a result, the tea should also help clear acne!

Eco factor:
Organic rooibos, certified kosher, and no synthetic fragrance or flavoring

To buy:
$10 at Whole Foods and republicoftea.com