Birchbox unboxing May 2014

Birchbox unboxing May 2014 • via

Caldrea Body Lotion – in Aloe Water Apricot

ewg skindeep cosmetics database score 4Fragrance added (likely synthetic), no cones, could be healthier but not bad. This scores a 4 with the cosmetics database (0 is healthiest, 10 is worst.) The synthetic fragrance knocks that down a lot but it does have some other ingredients that are excellent for skin moisturizing so I’ll probably give this a try.

Caldrea Body Wash – in Aloe Water Apricot

ewg skindeep cosmetics database score 5Fragrance added (likely synthetic), no cones, could be healthier but could also be worse. This scores a 5 with the cosmetics database. I’m not big on body washes anymore so I’m not sure yet if I’ll try this.

Marcelle New·Age 8 in 1 Power Serum

ewg skindeep cosmetics database score 4Cones rule this one out for me personally. It has one ingredient to be a little concerned about which brings it’s ranking up to a 4 with the cosmetics database (0 is the healthiest, 10 is the worst.) Not bad, could be better but if it’s not something you are allergic to, I would give it a shot.

PIXI Beauty Shea Butter Lip Balm – in Pixi Pink

ewg skindeep cosmetics database score 3Pretty good here. None of the usual nasties. No fragrances etc. This ranks a healthy 3 with the cosmetics database. Now lip balms are nice but I do lean towards glosses so I’m really not sure how much I will use this in particular.

This is going to sound a little odd but between the name, the color, and the tube itself, this reminds me of some sort of tinkerbell lipstick I had as a kid. The color is a fairly vibrant pink but it’s also still a lip balm so it’s sheer.

One thing to note – the twist tube on this seems to like to let the product fall back down into the tube. This is something Pixi Beauty needs to maybe work on. This is not a dollar store product (like I would wear anything from the dollar store to begin with – scary!) and it makes it a bit harder to put on.

Votivo Candle Travel Tin

Ok here’s where I’m going to get a little weird. Soy candles are supposed to be healthier than paraffin candles right? Well every time I’ve tried to go with healthier candles, I’ve ended up with a MASSIVE headache. Soy candles. Paraffin candles with natural scents. I’m not sure what goes on here that really messes with me. Basically the only candles that don’t give me a headache are synthetic (I know, bad) and paraffin. Best is a basic vanilla. I will give this one a shot even though it looks like it’s soy with synthetic fragrance so not entirely healthy. But I really have not figured out my deal with candles. Tim is the same way though … with some opposite allergies (he can’t handle lavendar for example) so it makes candle choosing VERY difficult and I opt for the “not healthy” candles because “not healthy” is better than a massive headache.

Out of the box the smell is decent. Lit might be another story completely. We’ll see.

Votivo Candle Travel Tin

Supergoop!® Everyday SPF 30 with Cellular Response Technology

ewg skindeep cosmetics database score 5Another neither here nor there. See my comments on the sunscreen ipsy sent this month. This is also a 5 with the cosmetics database. With a little planning you can do better. Take a look at my previous post on natural / healthier sunscreens.


So the May 2014 Birchbox overall: some things I’m really excited to try and some things that aren’t my cup of tea. Still worth the $10/month to try some new products!

 Still not signed up for Birchbox? :D

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Natural Oils SPF – sunscreen alternative

Recently I posted about choosing a more natural healthier sunscreen this summer. I wanted to follow up that article with some information my local co-op grocery store recently posted about natural oils SPF properties. Some in these natural oils even provide the 15-30 SPF range that most people choose when they’re shopping for sunscreen.


Natural Oils SPF - sunscreen alternative - Carrot Seed Oil, Raspberry Seed Oil, Wheatgerm Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Almond Oil, Shea Butter, Jojoba Oil

List of 10 oils with natural UV-ray protecting properties:  

  1. Carrot Seed Oil: SPF 38-40
  2. Raspberry Seed Oil: SPF 28-50
  3. Wheatgerm Oil: SPF 20
  4. Avocado Oil: SPF 4-15
  5. Coconut Oil: SPF 2-8
  6. Olive Oil: SPF 2-8
  7. Macadamia Nut Oil: SPF 6
  8. Almond Oil: SPF 5
  9. Shea Butter: SPF 3-6
  10. Jojoba Oil: SPF 4

Many of these have antioxidant properties if they are cold-pressed oils. Always look for cold-pressed when possible anyway because it will have retained more of it’s natural healthy qualities over something that has been heated.

So which Natural Oils SPF should I choose for sunscreen?

A quick glance through options and it looks like wheatgerm oil would be the best bang for your buck. 32 oz for about $25 with Amazon Prime or 16oz for around $10 from other suppliers or Vitacost. Raspberry or Carrot seed oils are in the $16-$19 price range for 2oz.

However wheat germ oil will probably leave you feeling a bit oily whereas the Raspberry and Carrot Seed oils absorb more readily so you may want to opt for those for your face and the wheatgerm oil for your body.

How accurate are these SPF numbers?  references several studies but I also went looking for a little more info because I was curious where they came up with the SPF info since that seems a little vague (and some of the sources referenced were more about vitamin D production or how bad standard sunscreens are):

In a study published in “Pharmacognosy Magazine” in 2009, a sunscreen comprised of wheatgerm and vitamin E had a natural SPF rating of 20. Read more:

So even though I can find multiple sources stating the same SPF figures for each oil, after a quick search I could only find one study mentioning a study of SPF for Wheatgerm. Yet another reason this one is probably your best bet. But I do wish I knew how much the Vitamin E affects the SPF value.

IF you can find studies that show SPF for each of these oils please link up those studies in the comments. 

SPF doesn’t mean it protects 100% from the suns rays, it just extends the amount of time you can spend outside before you burn so your own personal tolerance to UV is also a factor in how long you can stay outside with or without SPF. If you want to understand SPF better, check out the wikipedia article here:

Wide brim hats and clothes are a better UV blocker than anything topical. But I don’t know anyone who wants to go swimming in full head to toe clothing and a hat. 🙂

Natural Oil vs Allergies and Skin Sensitivities:

Also note – don’t go slathering these on without checking for allergies first. If you know you have skin sensitivities definitely do a patch test over the course of three days to see if you react. No one wants a head to toe rash!

Now get out and enjoy the summer!

And if you’re hesitant about using Natural Oils SPF as your choice of sunscreen, check out my previous article on choosing a healthier sunscreen.


UPDATE May 29th 2013:

Ok I’ve reviewed in more detail the article mentioned in ehow … :;year=2009;volume=5;issue=19;spage=238;epage=248;aulast=Kapoor

… and come up with this.

That study was done on fourteen commercial herbal sunscreens that were purchased from local dealer of Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India. I can’t seem to find the proportions that comprise those herbal sunscreens. And I suspect that “Water melon” isn’t the same thing I’m thinking of (or would be some sort of extract or seed extract.) In other words, the study is still incredibly vague.

Since I went to the trouble of compiling this table from the presented information, I’m posting it here (since it simplifies some of the information in the study):

codeingredientsSPF (in vivo - real life tests)
HS1Watermelon10 SPF
HS2Sandalwood, Winter Cherry, Cobras Saffron, Wheatgerm, Honey, Red Sandalwood, Symplocos, Aloe Vera29.5 SPF
HS3Carrot, Symplococos, Wheat Germ40.6 SPF
HS4Aloe Vera, Apple14.5 SPF
HS5Sunflower, Indian Madder, Cucumber19 SPF
HS6Aloe Vera19.9 SPF
HS7Orange, Vitamin C25.2 SPF
HS8Coriander, Vitamin E20.5 SPF
HS9Aloe Vera, Vitamin E24.5 SPF
HS10Aloe Vera, Basil, Tumeric30.8 SPF
HS11Sandalwood, Aloe Vera, Carrot, Honey, Sunflower15.1 SPF
HS12Wheatgerm, Vitamin E14.9 SPF
HS13Aloe Vera, Vitamin E19.0 SPF
HS14Cucumber, Jojoba, Orange, Sandalwood, Lavendar, Vitamin A, C, E29.9 SPF

There is one surprising finding. That Aloe Vera appears to have an SPF of about 20 with no additional ingredients.

So there you have it. If you’re in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India you might be able to pick up some nice herbal sunscreen that really does what it says it does. Otherwise this study doesn’t seem to cover as much in the way of individual ingredients.

I’ll continue to look for studies that do cover the oils mentioned on the LiveLoveFruit article and post that information if I find it.

Natural & Organic Shampoo & Conditioner
{My Natural Hair Series Part 1}


I once heard what sounded like some great advice: if you find a shampoo and conditioner you love, try the hair sprays, volumizers and other styling products in the same brand and you’ll probably end up liking them too.

The only problem is that really doesn’t hold true particularly when you hit organic and natural product lines. Worse is that many natural and organic companies that make shampoo and conditioner are very sparse when it comes to styling and finishing options.

And even worse than that, I have issues with anything rose scented and Tim can’t be around me if the rosemary or lavendar is too strong (and rosemary makes my hair look A-Maz-ing! Argh!) I would be using Shea Moisture Organic Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo and their Organic Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner but the rosemary in them gave Tim a headache. :/

So what’s a girl to do when she she has allergies, her significant other has allergies AND she wants to go with a natural product? Research a LOT and try a LOT of products until one clicks.

For reference and for those familiar with the Naturally Curly hair types, I’m either a 2b or a 3a since most of the time the curls don’t go to the crown of my head, sometimes they coil but sometimes they just do a simple “s” and I can also straighten my hair (not pin straight) without too much trouble (unless I go out in the rain.)

So let’s start with the basics, Desert Essence Fragrance Free Shampoo & Conditioner:


Desert Essence Fragrance Free Shampoo | Desert Essence Fragrance Free Conditioner
The shampoo is a 2 with EWG’s Cosmetic’s Database, and the conditioner is a 3

This is not my be all end all perfect combo but it’s what I can use daily and my hair looks good without killing me or Tim. I do want to try some of the other Desert Essence Shampoos and Conditioners but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet and keep rebuying this one.

What I love about these Desert Essence Fragrance Free products :

  • It doesn’t weight down my hair.
  • It doesn’t build up in my hair.
  • You can use it week after week with the same results instead of feeling like it’s no longer doing it’s job after a few weeks.
  • I don’t have what I would call “hippy hair” like I have with some other natural shampoos & conditioners (Dr. Bronner’s, I’m sorry, but I’m looking at you.)
  • “Fragrance Free” is NOT a gimmick and scents are not masked by “light” added fragrances like some other products. There is a light light scent when sniffed directly in the bottle, but that’s really from the product ingredients AND it really does rinse out. I recommend reading over the ingredients to see if there’s anything you know you personally might have a problem with but this is one of the best fragrance free products I’ve found.
  • It’s a good base for everything else.
  • No: cones (dimethicone), parabens, phthalates, paraffin, gluten, propylene glycol, mineral oil, synthetic fragrance, animal testing, PABA, synthetic color, DEA, or sulfates

What I don’t like:

Where I would suggest starting if you don’t already use a natural / organic shampoo, conditioner or other styling products – Shea Moisture kits:

Now that I’ve spent all of this time talking about the Desert Essences Fragrance Free line, I’m going to switch gears. If you are looking for somewhere to start in your journey for natural hair care products, I would highly recommend starting with the Shea Moisture kits. Particularly since I’m going to talk about some of their styling products from these kits that I DO use:


Shea Moisture Organic Curl & Shine Kit Coconut & HibiscusShea Moisture Hair Repair & Transition Kit Raw Shea Butter & Argan Oil

I was able to pick both of these up at my local Walgreens. And don’t worry too much about the fact that they’re in the ethnic hair care section. Unless your hair is super thin and straight, I think at least a couple of products in these kits will work for many different types of hair.

Like the Desert Essence shampoo and conditioner, the Shea Moisture products are also free of: cones (dimethicone), parabens, phthalates, paraffin, gluten, propylene glycol, mineral oil, synthetic fragrance, animal testing, PABA, synthetic color, DEA, or sulfates

If these don’t work for you or you have allergies or scent sensitivities I would move on to the Desert Essence Fragrance Free line.

Some other brands of natural / organic shampoo and conditioner that I’ve tried and thought were ok:

  • Avalon Organics: The Lavender OR Rosemary shampoos and conditioners I’ve tried and are good. And after I shower they aren’t intense enough to bother Tim. However when compared to the Desert Essence, my hair looks better with the Desert Essence. I haven’t tried the rest of the Avalon Organics line. Rosemary Shampoo is an EWG 4 and Conditioner is an EWG 3
  • Aubrey Organics: This line is very hit or miss. From my recollection one of my main problems with these was that there was product buildup. I needed to switch back and forth between two shampoos and conditioners to keep certain ones from weighing down my hair and others from stripping too much oil out. Some of these however would be excellent options for the more curly girls out there which is why I’m mentioning it. One of my favorites from their line is actually the Swimmer’s Normalizing Conditioner for Active Lifestyles – it’s a really thick and luxurious conditioner and I didn’t seem to have the same buildup problem with it. I used it for awhile with the Avalon Rosemary Shampoo.

I tried the following were “meh” or didn’t like them:

  • Burt’s Bees: I wanted so much to love these shampoos and conditioners but they just did not cut it for me. I tried at least two of their shampoos and conditioners and they did nothing good for my hair. I did so just after they came out (mentioning in case they adjusted the formula.)
  • Nature’s Gate: just meh. Not good, not bad for the hair just … nothing special. A little harsher on the hair than some of the others I’ve mentioned. Also some have parabens and some other ingredients I’m trying to reduce.
  • Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap: Serious Hippy Hair … ugh. I love this company but I just can’t bring myself to use the castile soap for anything. I tried the castile soap for my hair over a period of three days once and it just never felt clean and wasn’t looking good either. Tangly, ratty, hard to work with and dirty feeling. I really hate having to say this because they do make some good products and I know some people who can and do use the castile soap instead of shampoo but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Do NOT start here and judge natural hair care based on this alone.

Others I haven’t tried but would / should:

  • Jason Naturals
  • Alba Botanica / Alba Hawaiian – I’ve tried practically their whole line but not the shampoo and conditioner yet
  • Say Yes to Carrots

Do YOU have a favorite natural / organic shampoo & conditioner that I haven’t mentioned here that I should try? Have you tried any of the products I mentioned and want to share your thoughts? Feel free to post in the comments below! 🙂

Up Next in { My Natural Hair Series } : Natural / Organic Styling Products I’m currently using