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It’s coming…

It’s official: I’m working on our annual natural and organic beauty holiday gift guide! The holidays are going to be extra-special for me this year, so I’m working to make sure our third annual Holiday Gift Guide is, too.

Yes, I realize it’s only September. In my defense, it takes weeks to put this guide together every year, and I’ve got big plans!

I’d love your feedback. What gifts stump you every year? What do you look for from our gift guide? What have you found helpful in the past? —Aleigh

(Image: Osamu Kaneko; Text added by moi!)

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Closing sale at Vegan Beauty Market

After two years in business, Vegan Beauty Market recently announced that it will be shutting down. I’m sad to have one less place to buy natural beauty goodies on the web, but in the meantime, I wanted to point out that all of their remaining inventory is currently on sale.  So if you’ve had your eye on something…now may be the perfect time to snap it up! —Aleigh

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Beauty Obsession: Goodebox

Once my Birchbox subscription ended, I decided to test out a more natural beauty sample subscription service. I chose Goodebox. I’ve been a subscriber for about six months, and so far I’ve been really pleased with the selection, from the purity of the products to the price points, sizes, and the fact that it’s introduced me to a few brands I didn’t know about or hadn’t tried yet.

Goodebox: 6-7 trial-sized products in each box, $16 per month (plus a discount code for future purchases from each company represented in that month’s box)

Here’s a look at what came in my March box, along with my first impressions of each:

Astara Skincare Daily Refining Scrub ($19 for 2 fl. oz.): This is a full-sized product—already this box is worth more than I paid for it!

First impressions: I’m curious about this scrub, because the ingredients list on the bottle doesn’t match the ingredients list for the same product on the company’s website. Online, phenoxyethanol, which I mostly avoid, is listed. On my bottle, that ingredient is not included. Obviously the formula has been changed…but I wonder which is the most current version.

Moom Organic Hair Remover, Face/Travel Kit ($7.95): Another full-sized product. This may be the best box yet.

First impressions: I’m really looking forward to testing this one—I’ve never tried a sugaring product for hair removal, and it’s supposed to be a great option for sensitive skin. Plus, the ingredients list is very clean: sucrose, lemon juice, chamomile tea, tea tree oil, and aloe.

Morrocan Method Zen Detox Hair & Scalp Therapy ($23 for 4 oz.): This is definitely a sample size, and arrived in a plastic baggie (the image at left is the full-sized product.)

First impressions: I was baffled by this product at first. There are no instructions on the baggie, and when I visited the website, the only instructions I found were to sprinkle it on your feet for athlete’s foot or use as a facial or body mask. Then I discovered the product video, which gives very detailed application instructions—and now I can’t wait to test it out. Hurry up, weekend!

W3ll People Nudist Colorbalm Stick ($19.50): Another full-sized product!

First impressions: This is the first product I broke into and frankly, I’m loving it. The shade is Nudist 1, and more orange than I typically choose for myself, but the color is light enough that I can build it delicately. It’s a bit pricier than my preference for a tinted balm, but I might just splurge on this product in the future because it feels amazing, goes on lightly tinted, and does a great job of moisturizing.

Weleda Pomegranate Firming Eye Cream ($33 for .34 oz.): Yet another full-sized product!

First impressions: It’s no secret I’m on a lifetime hunt for the perfect eye cream. I’m not new to Weleda—it was one of the first product lines I tried—but I’d never tested out any of their eye creams. This one promises to help firm and protect the sensitive eye area and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. I really enjoy the texture of this product; it’s creamy and soothing, and sinks in quickly.

Yogi Tea Detox Tea and Skin Detox Tea ($4.99 for 16 teabags): There are two teabags in this month’s box, one sample of each.

First impressions: I’m no stranger to Yogi Tea, either, but I haven’t tried any of their detoxifying teas yet. I’m particularly excited about the Skin Detox Tea, with rose petal and hibiscus, which are used in Ayurveda to cool and soothe the skin.

All in all, I’d say this month’s Goodebox was a pretty great haul, possibly the best one so far! Have you tried them, or another version of a monthly samples subscription? What have your experiences been like? —Aleigh

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How to evaluate natural/organic cosmetics

I’m starting to peek at the results of the 2013 Indigo+Canary Reader Survey—thanks again to everyone who has already participated!—and I’m seriously grateful to all of you for your candid responses, kind words, requests, and feedback.

One topic that keeps coming up?  The tendency to become overwhelmed by the transition to natural cosmetics. So here’s a list of dos and don’ts when it comes to evaluating a product I’m considering, either in-store or online. I hope you find it helpful.

Feel free to leave your own tips, techniques, challenges, etc. in the comments! I’d be happy to do a follow-up post if anyone has specific challenges for us to tackle together. —Aleigh

DON’T believe the hype. Many, many products contain natural and/or organic ingredients. That doesn’t mean they don’t also contain a bunch of junk ingredients. (Note: The practice of promoting a product as natural when it isn’t is called greenwashing. And it stinks.)

DO realize there’s a difference between natural and organic. There are many natural products out there that aren’t organic (and even many organic products that can’t claim to be 100% organic) that I think are safe and beneficial. I almost always use the term “natural” because I don’t focus exclusively on organic products—you’ll find both natural and organic products on this blog. Some people refer to them as “clean” products.

DO check for ingredients that are an immediate no-go. Fact: Ingredients lists are often overwhelmingly extensive. If you can remember 3-5 key ingredients* you know you want to stay away from at all costs, scan and look for those before you scrutinize the entire ingredients list. That way, if you spot something like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) anywhere on the list, you can rule out that product without having to study each and every ingredient.

DON’T forget to consider your specific needs. If you have sensitive skin or know that you’re sensitive to a certain ingredient, check for those first on an ingredients list. You may also want to be a little more picky about the purity of the ingredients list if you’re looking for a product to use on your little one as opposed to when you’re shopping for a shampoo you’re going to use yourself.

DO look up ingredients you don’t recognize. Especially the ones that are ridiculously long and hard to pronounce. This is the most laborious step, but an important one. In stores, it’s helpful to have a smartphone with some natural beauty apps or a list of your no-go ingredients in your wallet for reference. Online, I keep a link to the SkinDeep Database open so I can switch back and forth easily.

DON’T hesitate to ask for a full ingredients list if you can’t find one. Many not-natural products (and to be fair, some truly natural products) don’t include full ingredients lists online. If this is the case, I often email the company to ask for a complete ingredients list…but it makes me extremely suspicious that a product isn’t actually as natural as it claims.

DO make a judgment call. Transitioning to natural cosmetics is a personal journey. You might decide to go all-in and toss every single one of your not-natural products at once to replace them with purer ones. But you don’t have to. Instead, you may decide to replace them one by one, as you use up your conventional products. Or you may choose to ditch the ones that have the most questionable ingredients first. It’s entirely up to you, and there is no wrong approach. Want more? Here’s a link to my natural/organic beauty philosophy.

DON’T stress over the decision. Easier said than done, I know. But keep in mind that  any effort you make is better than no effort. Really! And you have several factors to consider: convenience, price, availability, performance, and purity. So prioritize those factors in whatever order works best for you. (Example: I frequently buy a mostly-natural mascara in drugstores because I procrastinate on ordering a more natural version online…and mascara is the one beauty product I rarely leave the house without putting on. In that case, I typically prioritize convenience and price over performance and purity.)

*For me, these no-go ingredients are pthalates, any kind of parabens (there are six: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben and benzylparaben), sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, PEGs, and any artificial colors or fragrances. There are plenty other ingredients I avoid or do my best to avoid, of course, but these are the absolute, I-will-not-touch-them items. Bella Floria has a great explanation of these ingredients and a few others you may want to stay away from, here. 

(Image via Christian Kadluba on flickr)

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Natural Beauty Guide: Charlotte, NC

Since I launched Indigo+Canary in 2011, I’ve planned to share natural beauty guides to a few of my favorite cities—and I’m finally ready to make it happen! What better place to start than my current hometown, the lovely city of Charlotte? Read on for my guide to living and shopping natural in the city.

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