What I’ve Been Using: Nov/Dec

Hello readers! It’s been a longer time than I expected since I last wrote a post. There have been a lot going on in my personal life that I do not share on here or anywhere really. But some things do not change and that is my love of beauty products.

I have been working my way through products and based on your e-mails of “what should I use?” I realize the importance of providing product feedback in a more cohesive routine manner rather than leave them in an individual bubble.

So here is what I’m loving:

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African Botanics Fleurs D’Afrique

Holy crap you guys, this is a face oil on steroids! African Botanics was not kidding when they released this “intensive recovery oil” which contains marine micro-algae, retinol, vitamin c and CoQ10 in ONE SINGULAR BLEND! The scent is incredible and it’s not a surprise considering Jasmine Essential Oil and Rose Essential Oil are ingredients 3 and 5! This is over achieving. For anyone who has ever questioned the effectiveness of a face oil, try this and let me know if you still feel the same way. I seriously think this stuff is divine and savor each drop that comes out of the beautiful bottle. Pictures do not do it justice, just bring this up to a light to see the golden oil through the black frosted glass, it’s a thing of beauty. I could only use this 2-3 times a week at the beginning because it was so strong, which is another thing, sensitive skin might want to look at a calmer option like their Pure Marula Oil. But for those of you who just want to put a high quality buffet of actives on your skin in a face oil form, look no further. Buy this, enjoy, you’ve met your perfect match.

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Lina Hanson Global Treasures Balm

The first time I saw this balm on Lina Hanson’s Instagram, I knew I had to have it. Sure we’ve seen balms by many a green brand at this point but I was captivated by the gorgeous color and gold specks! Then I looked at the ingredients list and discovered the green color came from matcha, the gold from real 24K gold, and the inclusion of pearl powder. Gaahhh.. what a creation! When it arrived, I excitedly opened the jar and it was the beauty junkie version of what I imagine it would be like to meet a hot guy off of Tinder. “Ohhh that’s how the color looks in person and omg there are those gold specks!” I took a deep inhale and was welcomed with a warm, chocolaty note. I wrote Lina basically saying “Yeah it looks just as amazing in person but how are you not telling people how good this stuff smells?!” I’ve been saving this balm for winter to use on dry spots. But the real secret is how well this works as an eye balm. It doesn’t tug or pull, and gives the perfect emollient feel that lets you know that it’s working to get your skin buttery soft. My eye serums have been replaced by this gem.

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Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate

This embodies the innovative and quirky aspects of Asian skincare with a bouncy memory serum texture. Overnight Memory Serum is an ultra-concentrated form of Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist which means it is very very hydrating and absolutely packed with the rejuvenating powers of the mist. It is recommended for overnight recovery and I consider it to be extremely effective in combating dry winter air. Tatcha is made in Japan and I think of this as a very luxurious pressed serum/essence, as it is a very concentrated and nutrient packed product that delivers results like a serum. A little does go a long way with this and I use the gold scooper that comes with the jar which measures out the perfect amount. It kind of feels like breaking the super soft Japanese tofu over your skin and I say that in the most fun way. If your skin doesn’t handle moisturizers well (hello acne prone ladies) but needs that surge of moisture in the winter, this is the product you need. On a final note, check out how bouncy it is!

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Yarok Feed Your Volume Shampoo

I’m making my way through green shampoos and the latest stop is at Yarok which I have heard so much about. I believe it was Spirit who praised the way this smelled and although I enjoyed Rahua, I wasn’t completely in love with the palo santo scent so I had my eye on this for a while. I was pleasantly surprised by the gentle and light aroma of the shampoo. The way it smelled and felt reminded me of a fruity syrup. This shampoo was not drying at all, and made my hair feel and look great. I do not think it is really strong enough for my scalp though because it gets oilier quicker. With that said, I still really like this shampoo, my hair seems healthier and it just feels good. I find myself running my hands through my hair often because it just seems healthier. Many organic shampoos lack those chemical ingredients that give hair that “sheen” and “luster” but this brings it back with good ingredients which is incredible. I’m going to continue forward and see if my scalp situation sorts itself out – if it does, this will be a keeper.

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Yuli Metamorphic Elixir

When winter arrives, Metamorphic Elixir comes into play in a big way. If any green brand is going to pack in performance alongside the highest quality ingredients, it is Yuli and Metamorphic means business when it comes to hydration in the form of a botanically derived hyaluronic acid that is most compatible to the form of natural present hyaluronic acid in our skin, plant powered retinol alternatives (immortelle flower and frankincense which are both highly rejuvenating are literally ingredients 3 & 4), as well as the humectant glycerin which is a common ingredient however theirs is derived from fatty acids found in coconuts. Also if you love roses, this is flowing with a complex of roses with damask rose as the 2nd most abundant ingredient and also including a very rare white rose which smells soft and delicate. I think it was Chalkboard Mag that called this rose water on steroids for this reason. I first took the plunge to Metamorphic Elixir after hearing The Hermes Hippie and Rebecca Bailey of NMDL both  rave about it and it was love at first mist for me as well. A good face mist is like crack (I assume.. not speaking from experience), you just can’t get enough and already start dreading running out before you’re half way through  – that is exactly the relationship I have with this elixir. Add this to your winter regimen, it’s the tall drink of water your skin has craved.

The $10 Green Shampoo – Available Everywhere

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It’s no secret that when it comes to beauty, “budget” is not a word in my vocabulary. Then a couple of things happened: I ran out of my stash of Rahua Shampoos, I was in dire need of a new shampoo & I was at Target. Enter, Acure.

If you haven’t heard of this brand by now, Acure is everywhere: Whole Foods, Target, Vitacost, etc. After giving so many high end lines a try: Rahua, Intelligent Nutrients, Josh Rosebrook, Yarok – I decided why not give Acure a try? And am I glad that I stepped out of my “luxury” only mind frame.

Clarify – Repair – Volume are the three shampoos offered by Acure to address the main needs of customers: clarify for oilier hair, repair for dry/damaged hair, and volume for thin/weak hair. All formulas use natural and organic ingredients, green enough for most green beauty retailers yet at the very easy to handle – $9.99 price point for 8 fl oz (the 24 oz larger size is even better as a deal at $19.99).

Unlike other ‘budget friendly’ lines that tend to use low quality ingredients or only 1-5 ingredients, Acure uses a lot of certified organic ingredients and the typical ingredients list is quite packed with good ingredients like argan + echinacea plant stem cells, organic plant oils (like avocado, coconut, rosehips etc), CoQ10, quinoa, and essential oils like lemongrass, eucalyptus, and lavender. I really was quite impressed at how all these ingredients could be crammed into their price point.

Results Although the shampoos are meant to address different hair types, my dermatologist once told me to think of hair in the same way as we think about skin – an ever changing system where the needs are also changing. Therefore I use all three: clarify for days where I’ve worked out, repair throughout dry, winter days and volume when my hair just feels a little limp, lifeless and flat. I didn’t notice too much different between the three shampoos in terms of how my hair and scalp reacted but that may largely be due to the fact that I use them interchangeably.

The results at first didn’t “wow” me given how impressive the ingredients list is however after about 3 months of use, I realized that they held up and in some cases outperformed higher end green shampoos that I had previously used. My hair felt sufficiently clean, not stripped and my scalp is fairly happy with this system. I was not left yearning to go back to the more expensive brands which in itself is quite a testimonial to the value of these shampoos.

My favorite if I had to pick just one, would be the Volume Shampoo which results wise was like a middle-ground between Clarify and Repair, and smelled the loveliest with peppermint and rosemary. Given the price though, purchasing all 3 wouldn’t be all that outrageous considering that it is still lower priced than a single bottle of a higher end shampoo.

ACURE is widely available, you can try them at your local Whole Foods/Target. I’ve purchased from their website as well and you can check out their extensive hair products collection here.

John Masters Organics Rosemary & Lavender Shampoo

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My favorite hair products have always been the more traditional products. I was a huge fan of Bumble & Bumble, and Kiehls, with splurges on Leonor Greyl products when I felt like something extra fancy. My casual dabbling in cleaner hair products often left me disappointed. They never seemed to perform the way I’d hoped, where I could substitute them in for my favorite products. A few weeks ago, I ran out of my Aesop Calming Shampoo and that’s when I remembered that my boyfriend had just bought a bottle of John Masters Organics Rosemary & Lavender Shampoo from Whole Foods a few days ago. My blogger hat instantly came on!

Let’s start with presentation, as someone who loves her luxury beauty products, I feel like this modern and simple dark brown plastic bottle with bold white lettering fits beautifully on any beauty counter. It is subtle to not be glaring but still impactful where you feel like there is a quiet elegance. I’m quite pleased with the overall unisex design and one can easily mistake it for a more expensive shampoo.

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I know some people will not touch products with Rosemary & Lavender but I’m not one of them. They have a bad reputation as irritating essential oils but I think sometimes people are afraid of things because they hear others have bad reactions so they won’t try. I personally do not have any reactions to these plants, so luckily, I can use them and enjoy their rich antioxidant properties and in this case – their scalp and hair balancing features.

The shampoo itself is a brown gel that smells herbal but not in a bad way. You only need a little for it to lather. The scent is more lavender than rosemary but definitely nothing too floral. The ingredients include 15 certified organic botanicals including aloe, jojoba seed oil, nettle root, lavender EO, rosemary EO, yarrow, white tea, horsetail, willow bark, chamomile, comfrey oil, borage oil, sunflower oil, and flax seed oil. The surfectants which cause the lathering are rather high in the list which also explains why it lathers so well.

It cleansed my hair really well and left my scalp very happy – not stripped or oily. My scalp is prone to dandruff and I found the white willow bark (a natural salicylic acid) and lavender/rosemary to really help with flakiness. I generally don’t like to use conditioner regularly (aside from a once a week treatment) since I have oily hair but I found that this shampoo left my hair needing that extra bit on conditioning care after a few uses so it might be a tad stronger than I would like. It could also be because this doesn’t contain silicones that really give hair that soft silky texture. To the guys, my boyfriend says he uses this because it is really good at getting out hair product, so if you’re concerned about that, this seems like a good option.

I’m quite pleased with this find and although at $16, I wouldn’t consider it a budget buy – it does prove that you don’t need to shell out high-end prices for something that is both clean and effective. I would happily use this or try other shampoos from their line in the future.

Available at John Masters Organics $16

Apivita Propoline Sensitive Scalp Shampoo

I’ve always on the hunt for new, unheard of products and so I was quite delighted to receive a sample from Apivita, a Greek cosmetics company that is beginning to gain a following the US. Their products are touted as natural, effective, and holistic, so I was quite interested in learning more about their products!

The Shampoo comes in a very unisex, solid apothecary bottle. I was sent the shampoo for sensitive scalp. But they have a huge variety on their website. The ingredients are 94% natural and include goodies such as Honey, Prickly Pear, Calendula, Lavender, and Chamomile. Another thing that makes the formula interesting is that water is replaced with a rosemary infusion which offers more toning and anti-septic action (chronic scalp conditions such as dandruff can be caused by bacteria). The ingredients are free of SLS, Parabens, Mineral Oils, Silicones, Phthalates, Synthetic colors.

My hair felt soft and light after the first use and instantly fell in love! I don’t remember the last time a shampoo made my hair feel so hydrated and silky. I couldn’t help but run my hands through it throughout the day! The shampoo was foamy but not drying, the fluid felt a little bit runny and thin, and I remember wondering how much I would need since my hair would probably just eat this stuff up! But amazingly, a little goes a long way!

Now for the less great news, although this formula is SLS free – it has pretty much SLS’s step-sibling Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate which probably explains the high foam factor, there are also PEG’s, Phenoxyethanol, and Parfums in here. Yes, parfum is an ingredient, I had to read that carefully and then I noticed the packaging only said it was free of Phthalates and synthetic musks, but I guess some synthetic fragrances still made it into the formula. It is just slightly irritating because unless you really focus, the ingredients and labels can be a little bit “sneaky”. I don’t know if these shortcuts are what led to a pretty wonderful performing product, but I will say, I don’t mind a less foaming, less wonderfully scented product if it will decrease the toxic load especially for a shampoo formulated for sensitive scalp. 

Available at Apivita for $20 

Aesop Equalizing Shampoo

I went to a wedding this weekend and stayed at a nice boutique hotel. I was surprised to find they stocked the restrooms with AESOP products, which is a massive  welcome departure from the norm. I usually never bring hair product for a weekend trip (TSA!), with the full knowledge that hotel shampoos will turn me into a dandruff ridden mess. But I was surprised to see Aesop’s Equalising Shampoo ($47) in the shower, after I had read about it in my boyfriends Details feature. 

I was told by concierge that this was part of their ‘Black Label’ – which surprised me since I didn’t know Aesop was trying to be the skincare version of Ralph Lauren. Nonetheless, I’m told that the Black Label is just another way of saying it is their line of hair products. The Equalising Shampoo was formulated for oily scalps to balance sebum production, it is one of 6 shampoos in the Black Label Hair care range.

The formula is true to Aesop: essential oils for scent, 80% clean, 20% not so clean- SLS is included as are PEGs. I’m told the SLS is derived from coconut, so I’m not sure if that makes it better. The shampoo comes out of the pump as a thick gel and lathers really easily (courtesy of the SLS). The scent is wonderful, I know some Aesop products smell weird and others smell great, this falls into the latter. It is herbal-minty. 

I noticed after 2 uses that my scalp didn’t flake nor was it oily which is really pleasant of a surprise for something that contains SLS, which is known to also be a drying agent. I’m not sure how my hair would stand with regular use, but after a weekend, it was fine. It really cleaned my hair leaving it only slightly ‘stripped’ feeling.  

While I enjoyed this shampoo, I do think the ‘normal’ shampoo for normal hair might be more suited for regular use. Has anyone tried hair products from Aesop before?