Soothing those party eyes

Most evenings I go to bed too late. I swear by a 10.30pm bedtime, but somehow I seldom make it.

It would be nice to think that the holidays were a time for more sleep, but between the good stuff (parties and gatherings) and the less good stuff (late night baking and present wrapping), that often does not happen. So, I look for other ways of feeling - and looking - better in the morning.

One of these is to slap on a good coating of eye cream before I sleep at night.
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This feels particularly therapeutic in the dry, cold winter here in Ottawa. Winter, for me, is a time of cracking skin, limp and static-filled hair and a bleeding nose. I like the skiing and the skating, but I can't say I welcome these other features of our longest season.

My eye remedy is Keys Soap Eye Butter. The thing I like about this cream is that it feels entirely inert, buttery-even (as the name suggests). It barely smells and it does not make my eyes water or sting (a common problem with eye cream). A reviewer on another site mentioned that she liked to let her eyes `marinate' in it for the night and I think that sums it up pretty well.
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Does it reduce puffiness and all those wrinkles around my eyes? I am not too sure, but it feels good and kind to my over-taxed eyes, and it makes me think that my chronic lack of sleep will affect me less.

The ingredients are self-evidently natural (Avocado Oil, Shea Butter, Black Cumin Oil, Carrot Seed Oil, Distilled Cucumber, Aloe Vera, Purified Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Vegetable Wax, Rosemary Extract) so it is not surprising that it scores a zero on the Skin Deep cosmetics database.

The cream comes in a glass container in two sizes, The smaller one (0.5oz or 15ml) does not sound like much, but I can assure you that it pretty much lasts forever (since it is a very dense cream you don't scoop much up on any given occasion). It costs around $20 and is available from the manufacturer or from Amazon (and elsewhere).

In Canada my favourite supplier is Hornet Mountain Natural Products in BC. The eye butter is available as a stand-alone item for $22.25 but Astrid, the proprietor, also does a great Keys Soap Cleanse and Moisturize package for $60. This contains full size versions of the Eye Butter, Island Rx Foaming Cleanser (which I have previously recommended) and Keys Luminos Day/Night Moisturizer. I like, and use, this moisturizer but it is on the heavy side and I generally prefer a little fragrance in my facial moisturizer (though not around my eyes).

Keys Soap products are generally very benign and contain no fragrances or preservatives whatsoever. This blog posting tells you more about how the products are made, and how they manage to eschew preservatives. The company was an early signatory to the compact for safe cosmetics and now has champion status. Prices are generally reasonable (in my view) and they ship far and wide. What's not to like about that?
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Moisturizers revisited

One of my very early postings was about face creams. At the time I was a fan of Lavera products. But my journey with ecoproductsthatwork.com has introduced me to a whole range of great new products. So I thought I would share with you what I am using on my aging face right now.

First, though, I want to remind you of what I wrote in my posting on cleansers, which holds for moisturizers too: what I look for in facial products is low toxicity (of course), a smell/texture/feel that suits me and a price that is right. Add to that a (more or less) local manufacturer and all my needs are satisfied: I am not looking for miracles.

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So, my current beauty secret? My daytime moisturizer is Pure Anada's Green Tea and Grapeseed Hydra Lotion. This is a light, delicately fragranced lotion that has felt great through the warmer months and this Indian summer. Maybe mid-winter I would prefer something richer - perhaps Pure Anada's Berry and Bouquet Hyrda Cream, which I have not yet tried - but, for now, I love the Green Tea product.

It comes in a largish pump bottle. Beware, my pump is a bit wild and has several times discharged rather aggressively onto my bathroom mirror. It is, though, very well priced at $19.50 for a full 60ml/2fl oz (if you need an idea of size, I have been using this since early summer and still have some left).

You may remember Pure Anada from my recent posting on lipstick. It's a small Manitoba company that is dedicated to low toxicity. None of the ingredients in the cream scores above 1 on the Skindeep ingredients database, though the magical-sounding ingredient in this Green Tea moisturizer, Olivem 1000, is not rated. You can read a bit about it here. It is derived from olive oil so does not worry me too much, and the fact that it claims to generate liquid crystals on my stratum corneum (that's the top layer of the skin: dead cells, sadly) actually sounds rather enticing (if a little perplexing).

I was sent this lotion as a sample and was happy to hear that when it was mailed it had just been mixed up the day before. A new idea: freshly prepared cosmetics! I have had it for several months now and there does not seem to have been any product deterioration.

At night I am using a product from Olivier Soaps (remember my post on washing in the wilderness...I went to buy the shampoo and ended up getting a travel size of this cream too). It is billed as an anti-aging day cream - Femme Creme de Jour - but I find it perfect for the night.

It has a fresh, slightly medicinal smell (if you were paying attention to my sunscreen posting, you will know that this is a quality I like), imparted by oils of: neroli, rosemary, tea tree, sage, benzoin, rosewood, palmarosa and carrot seed. It goes on smoothly and feels nourishing and matte, not at all greasy (which is not true for all eco creams).
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The cream scores 2 on the Skindeep database. This is low, but not quite as low as I would like. Looking at the ingredients, everything seems very benign apart from sodium borate. This is, in fact, the chemical name for borax and it comes with a warning from Health Canada (it is a skin irritant (especially for infants). Rather alarmingly it is also a food additive. Anyway, I checked in with Olivier and they tell me that they use only a trace amount in their formula as a preservative, so my mind is at rest for now, though it would be good if they could find a formulation that was entirely borax-free.

The 8g trial/travel size is not on the website but is available in the shops: maybe they would send you one if you asked. The big tub is 50g and sells for $54.95 (so close, yet so far, from the on-line free shipping threshold of $60). I know this is not cheap, but it does last and I figure that from time to time my face needs a treat. Others must agree as this is the company's best selling product.

Olivier soap is a family-run New Brunswick company that sells both on line and through stores. There just happens to be a franchise store in Chelsea, Quebec, down the road from me. The company is a signatory to the compact for safe cosmetics, which is always a good sign. Customer service is not too hot, but they did answer my questions eventually. Pure Anada, on the other hand, are super-responsive.

So there you have it. I can't say that my wrinkles are in decline, but my face is happy (and I even got an unsolicited compliment on my skin the other day.....it's true!.....so I must be doing something right).
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Luscious lips

I am not a big makeup person, but I do like my lipstick, which is why I pay some attention to all those alarming `facts' about lipstick circulating in web world.


So what is a girl to do? A bit of research,
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and a willingness not to buy your makeup at the drug or department store, go a long way.

I have tried a number of natural lipsticks and found all to be quite effective (at least in the more muted shades that I favour). But my current favourite is made right here in Canada by a company called Pure Anada.

Based in Manitoba, Pure Anada makes a whole range of make-up products and skincare items which it sells on-line and through salons and health/eco stores across the country (though sadly there is no stockist in Ottawa).

Although I have used them, I am not really qualified to comment on Pure Anada's mascara or eye makeup; as a complete novice in these departments, all I can say is that they seemed to do a perfectly good job.

I do, though, especially like the Pure Anada lipgloss. It comes in a whole slew of colours, contains no nasty ingredients and goes on - with a sponge applicator - smoothly. It is somewhat less viscous than many lipgloss products and has a light feel. Maybe, as a result, it does not last quite as long, but it does claim a high mineral pigment content which should help. It certainly does a good enough job for me (though I should add that my longevity expectations for lipgloss are not that high).

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The Pure Anada lipstick is also very nice and moisturizing and comes in a smart stainless case. I have the sugar plum colour. I cannot quite put my finger on why it is that I like the gloss better. Maybe the colour is more intense.

Both products score a 1 on the Skipdeep database, which is very good by lipstick standards (by comparison MAC lipsticks score a 3, Cover Girl a 6....). Both come in over 20 colours (the colours are quite true to the screen shot, on my computer at least) and both cost a very reasonable $12 (so you can maybe afford to sample a few colours). Shipping is free in North America for orders over $50.

Pure Anada is a small, homegrown company and is very helpful with questions and queries. All ingredients are listed on their website and none sound scary. They also sell great bamboo/vegan cosmetics brushes in a variety of styles (I especially like the small flat-topped foundation brush: good for travelling).

Last thing to mention is that they sell a range of pressed foundation powders akin to the Jane Iredale one I recommended a while back. I have yet to try these out but they look very promising. Although for regulatory reasons they are not advertised as having SPF protection, the makers tell me they do (and it makes sense that they should, given their ingredients). They are also quite a bit cheaper than the Iredale product (around $25 for a full compact as opposed to more than $50) and are made closer to home (at least to my home). Perhaps someone else has tried them?

NB. I was sent sample products by Pure Anada after receiving a recommendation to try their products and finding that the company had no local stockist. My review remains unbiased.




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Facial cleansers and scrubs

I have never invested heavily in beauty products (yes, it does show). To reassure myself that this is the right decision, I do, though, read lots of articles that purport to tell me whether expensive creams really make a difference.

To date, nothing I have read has persuaded me that I should be spending more on my face. The article that sticks in my kind is by Ben Goldacre (a columnist for the Guardian newspaper in the UK ). His book on Bad Science holds that all face creams essentially do the same thing as vaseline, but some are less greasy.

So, with this reassurance, what I look for in facial products is low toxicity (of course), a smell/texture/feel that suits me and a price that is right.

When it comes to cleansers, I believe I have hit the jackpot. But I should say that unless you like lemon and fresh, citrusy smells, you will not agree with me.
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On a daily basis I use Keys Soap Island Rx Foaming Wash. This is a castile-based cleanser that foams right out of the bottle (like those yukky-smelling kids' hand soaps). It smells great (I must like avocado and clary sage) and leaves your face squeaky clean. But not so squeaky clean that you feel that all your natural, age-defying oils have been removed.

It comes in a pretty large bottle (236ml or 8oz), that lasts a long time, even if you share it with your husband (as I do). Yes, a unisex beauty product!

It also scores 0 (the best score) on the Skindeep cosmetics database. Keys is a company with a deep environmental commitment (that extends to its packaging and manufacturing processes).

Last, but not least, the cleaner is supposed to work well if you have eczema, psoriasis or other difficult skin conditions, but I cannot provide a personal opinion on this.

Keys Soap products can be purchased online or through various US retailers. They are not widely available in Canada, but there are a few dealers. I purchase mine through Hornet Mountain Natural Products in BC which provides good, personalised service. The foaming cleanser costs C$18.95.

My other cleansing winner is a very lemony, slightly gritty facial scrub: Suki exfoliate foaming cleanser (with lemongrass extract and natural sugar).

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The smell is fantastic (definitely good enough to eat) and this product has just the right amount of abrasiveness for me. It really does leave your face with a glowing feeling. I don't use it every day, but I really miss it if I leave home for a while without it (as I did on my recent European trip).

Like the Keys Foaming wash, this scores 0 on the Skindeep database, so perhaps you can actually eat it.

It retails for US$29.95 for a 4oz container (that does not sound like very much product, but you do not use much each time as it foams up quite well). I bought mine at online through Pink Ginger in Merrickville. Prices are a bit higher there but the service was good and the store is quite local for me. You can find it more cheaply through Saffron Rouge in Canada (or the US). Otherwise see this page for US, Canadian and International retailers.
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