October 18, 2016

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Comedogenic Ratings - What They Are and Why They’re Important

When it comes to skincare, there are a few things you know you absolutely don’t want to find on the ingredients list of your next product. Parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, coal tar dyes— and comedogenic ingredients.

You’ve no doubt seen “non-comedogenic” written on oil, moisturizer and cream bottles but perhaps you aren’t sure what it means (or how to pronounce it!). Well, it’s pronounced “comb-o-doe-genic” and we’re about to tell you everything you need to know about the term!

Understanding what comedones are and why you should avoid them is key to keeping your skin healthy, clear and glowing. To get you up to speed on all things comedogenic and non, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the skincare term.

Comedones - They Make Your Skin Come Undone

A comedo is a single, skin-colored bump found on the skin, the plural for which is comedones. They appear most frequently on the forehead and chin of acne prone skin and can come in six variations.

Open comedones: Blackheads, or comedones with bacteria that has reached the surface of the skin and oxidized. 

Closed comedones: Whiteheads, or comedones with bacteria that has reached the surface of the skin.

Solar comedones: Sun damage on facial skin of the elderly. 

Microcomedones: Comedones too small to be visible by the naked eye.

Macrocomedones: Closed comedones that are bigger that 2-4mm in diameter.

Giant comedones: A comedone with a large, blackhead-like cyst (pro tip: don’t image Google search this one).

I told you not to...

What Causes Comedones? 

An excess of sebum in your pores or a build-up of bacteria or dirt in your pores causes comedones to develop. Comedones are basically just the precursor to a regular old pimple or bout of acne.

Likewise, your skincare products can cause comedones because of the ingredients in them. Thus, they are comedogenic!

Comedogenic Ratings

To help make sense of which skincare ingredients are comedogenic, top dermatological doctors and scientists have put together a ratings system for the most common oils, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, antioxidants, butters, waxes and herbs found in skincare products.

The Comedogenic Rating System 

0 - Will Not Clog Pores

1 - Low

2 - Moderately Low

3 - Moderate

4 - Fairly High

5 - High probability it will clog pores 

If you’re looking for a non-comedogenic product, meaning that it will not clog your pores, we suggest only using products with ingredients rated a 2 or lower. With that said, all skin is unique, meaning that everyone’s skin will react differently to these products and their ingredients.

For some, a product with a 2 rating on the comedogenic list will cause a major breakout while others can use a 4 rated product with no problems.

Coconut oil and Cocoa Butter: Prepare Yourselves

It’s always best to get bad news out of the way first, right? If you were wondering does cocoa butter clogs pores or does coconut oil clogs pores, the answer is an unfortunate but resounding: yes. Both have a 4 comedogenic rating which means if you have oily skin prone to breakouts you definitely avoid it for your facial skincare needs.

The fact that coconut oil is comedogenic is a major bummer, especially since we love to use it as an all-natural make-up remover, which puts the oil right near our sensitive eye area every night!

In a surprising turn of events, if you were wondering if other popular oils like caster oil or sesame oil clog pores, the answer is no! Both are non-comedogenic. 

Other Comedogenic No-Nos 

  • Soybean Oil Comedogenic Rating: 3
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate Comedogenic Rating: 3
  • Flaxseed Oil Comedogenic Rating: 4
  • Linseed Oil Comedogenic Rating: 4
  • Palm Oil Comedogenic Rating: 4
  • Algae Extract Comedogenic Rating: 5
  • Wheat Germ Oil Comedogenic Rating: 5
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Comedogenic Rating: 5
  • Salt Comedogenic Rating: 5
  • Potassium Chloride Comedogenic Rating: 5

Non-Comedogenic Oils List

Now for some good news! There are so many wonderful natural oils that are non-comedogenic and have incredible nourishing skincare benefits and properties.

As you well know by now, we’re major proponents of using oils as a part of your daily skincare routine; this list is especially helpful for those struggling with acne or oil-prone skin who would still like to incorporate oils into their skincare routines.

  • Almond Oil Comedogenic Rating: 2
  • Argan Oil Comedogenic Rating: 0
  • Avocado Oil Comedogenic Rating: 2
  • Emu Oil Comedogenic Rating: 1
  • Hemp Seed Oil Comedogenic Rating: 0
  • Jojoba Oil Comedogenic Rating: 2
  • Olive Oil Comedogenic Rating: 2
  • Rosehip Oil Comedogenic Rating: 1
  • Pomegranate Oil Comedogenic Rating: 1
  • Shea Butter Comedogenic Rating: 0
  • Tamanu Oil Comedogenic Rating: 2

Non Comedogenic Botanicals, Vitamins, Minearls, Waxes and Butters

Waxes

Beeswax Comedogenic Rating: 2

Candelilla Wax Comedogenic Rating: 1

Carnuba Wax Comedogenic Rating: 1

Ceresin Wax Comedogenic Rating: 0

Emulsifying Wax NF Comedogenic Rating: 2

Lanolin Wax Comedogenic Rating: 1

Botanicals

Aloe Vera Gel Comedogenic Rating: 0

Calendula Comedogenic Rating: 1

Chamomile Comedogenic Rating: 2

Chamomile Extract Comedogenic Rating: 0

Cold Pressed Aloe Comedogenic Rating: 0

Minerals

Flowers of Sulfur Comedogenic Rating: 0

Precipitated Sulfur Comedogenic Rating: 0

Talc Comedogenic Rating: 1

Zinc Stearate Comedogenic Rating: 0 

Vitamins and Herbs

Ascorbic Acid Comedogenic Rating: 0

Black Walnut Extract Comedogenic Rating: 0

Tocopherol (Vitamin E) Comedogenic Rating: 2

Vitamin A Palmitate Comedogenic Rating: 2

Panthenol Comedogenic Rating: 0

 

DIY Non Comedogenic Skincare Recipes

Now that you know which ingredients are safe for regular skincare use, the fun can begin— choosing products! Making your own skincare products is not only is it easy to do, it’s cost effective and allows you to control the ingredients.

Non Comedogenic Face Lotion for Sensitive Skin

Ma Nouvelle Mode 

  • Shea butter
  • Apricot kernel oil
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Helichrysum essential oil, Myrrh and Clary Sage essential oil

 

Non Comedogenic Face Cream

Say Not Sweet Anne 

  • Aloe vera gel
  • Beeswax
  • Almond oil
  • Shea butter
  • Essential oil of your choice

*We subbed Shea butter from the coconut oil from the original recipe for obvious comedogenic reasons.  

Non Comedogenic 30 SPF Sunscreen

Pins and Procrastination

Non Comedogenic Moisturizing Spray

DIY Natural

  • Distilled water
  • Pure vegetable glycerine
  • Grapeseed, sweet almond or hazelnut oil
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Essential oils of your choice

Non Comedogenic Sugar Scrub

Jenni Raincloud

  • Sugar
  • Apricot kernel oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Lavender and melaleuca essential oils

*We modified the original recipe by subbing apricot kernel oil for coconut oil to make it non comedogenic. 

Non Comedogenic Products and their Ratings 

If you’re not down with the DIY and would rather purchase your beauty products the old-fashioned way - online! - never fear. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite non comedogenic products from the best beauty brands out there.

Skincare

Make-up 

And With All That Said….

There is no official certification process for brands labeling their products “non comedogenic” in the same way there is no official process for labeling products “natural.” This means that any brand can label any of their products “non comedogenic” with literally no research done to back up the claim.

We’re not saying this to scare you or negate all the information we’ve just provided. It doesn’t mean all beauty brands are lying to you or manipulating you. It just means that you have to be extra careful when you’re buying products based on the label.

Always be sure you’re buying reputable brands from reputable websites and do your homework to find out why a certain product is labeled non comedogenic. Like we said previously, every person’s skin is unique, with different sensitivities to specific ingredients. What may be comedogenic to you may not affect someone else’s skin at all. 

Additionally, many store bought products have more ingredients than just the oils, botanicals and waxes that have been rated. These ingredients could also affect your skin’s reaction to the product.

We believe it’s best to use the comedogenic rating system as a guide for your skincare shopping. Pay attention to which ingredients on the list are in your current skincare products and if they’re affecting your skin. As you introduce new products (either from a DIY or our curated list), make note of how your skin reacts over time. You’ll soon have your own custom non comedogenic list that will save your skin from here on out.

Also, if you get inspired to shop on your own after reading our list, we recommend you look carefully at all the ingredients before you purchase anything. For example, the ever-popular (and totally affordable) Trader Joe’s brand Vitamin E oil’s first ingredient is actually soybean oil (which has a comedogenic rating of 3) and also includes coconut oil (which we just sadly learned is comedogenic).

Sources: Men’s Science, DermNet NZ, Beneficial Botanicals, Bustle, Clear Away Acne, Coco Kind

October 18, 2016

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Protect Your Health with This All-Natural Detangling Spray

Detangling Spray

Nothing is worse than combing your hair after a shower, only to find that you've ripped out a few dozen strands. In many cases, this leads to breakage and in turn, will reduce positive hair health. Although there are many detangling sprays on the market, many are filled with additives that you not only apply to your hair, but also breath in. 

Pass On Conventional Detangling Sprays 

When spraying your hair with a scented detangling spray, you probably think you're doing your hair a world of good. After all, that's what it's advertised to do. What they don't tell you, is that these sprays are loaded up with chemical additives that are toxic to both your external and internal health.

Take Johnson's No More Tangles Detangling Spray, a brand that is trusted by the general public, creating products that are intended for babies and young children. As stated by the FDA, this product, along with many others, contains what is known as phthalates. This group of chemicals is actually used within hundreds of products, without truly knowing the definitive effects.

From synthetic fragrances to possible carcinogens, when spraying your hair, you breath in these potentially harmful additives. So, what's the solution? An all-natural remedy, of course, offering a combination that is safe and effective. All you need are three simple ingredients, plus a splash of distilled water — it couldn't be easier!

Coconut Oil, Essential Oils, and Vitamin E — A Match Made in Heaven

When it comes to all-natural combinations that benefit your hair, the sky is the limit. From avocado oil to honey, you can source a wide range of ingredients based on what you'd personally like to achieve. Some suffer from dandruff, while others suffer from split ends. You can select ingredients based on your personal health and beauty goals. 

When consuming coconut oil, it's recommended that you eat unrefined, virgin coconut oil that is solid at room temperature. For this recipe and other beauty remedies, however, you can use liquid coconut oil, as it will be easier to use within a spray. Although this version is not as high in lauric acid, it still offers medium chain fatty acids that will benefit your hair.

Rosemary oil has long been used throughout history as a natural hair tonic. When applied to the hair and scalp, it's believed to stimulate growth and treat the effects of dry, brittle hair. We will be using this oil within the recipe below, as well as basil oil — but feel free to get creative. Lavender, for instance, helps balance sebum production; whereas chamomile conditions and protects against environmental pollutants.

Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant that will help build and repair tissue. When applied to your hair and scalp, it can reduce inflammation and encourage growth. Throw all of these ingredients into one spray bottle with distilled water, and you have yourself an all-natural remedy that you will feel good about using.

Try This All-Natural Detangling Spray For Yourself 

Whether you're heading to the beach or jumping out of the shower, this spray will be your go-to detangling solution. Whip up a small batch today, helping you protect both your hair and overall health. 

What You'll Need 

  • 2 parts coconut oil: 1 part distilled water
  • Essential oils — 3 drops rosemary oil, 2 drops basil oil
  • Small spray bottle
  • 1/8 tsp vitamin E

What to Do

  1. After adding coconut oil and vitamin E to your spray bottle, fill the rest with water and add your essential oil.
  1. Shake well and apply. 

** Please note, there are no preservatives in this recipe — so make small batches and use within 1-2 weeks.

October 14, 2016

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DIY Oat & Rose Bath Tea Bags

Easy-Peasy Oat Bath Tea Bags

These bath tea bags can be whipped up in under 10 minutes, they look beautiful and make a great gift! Plus they’re easily customizable to suit you as you can really put anything at all in them.

We’re using regular oats for the base of these tea bags as when submerged into a hot bath the oats turn the water milky and release all of their skin soothing benefits. Oats are especially good for dry and itchy skin, soothing babies skin, and helping calm eczema, psoriasis, rashes, acne and so much more. We also add some dried rose buds for decoration and their beautiful scent.

You Will Need:

Oatmeal and Rose Pedal Tea Bag

  • Oats
  • Flower petals (rose, lavender, chamomile, etc.)
  • Small cotton or organza bags

Method:

Simply place all of your ingredients into the bag and tie closed! It’s that simple.

If you don’t have any little bags hanging around (usually from jewellery purchases or what you find samples in when you’ve been buying one too many beauty products online), you can simply use a muslin face cloth and a hair tie. Pile your oats and other ingredients in to the middle and gather the cloth up around it before securing with a hair tie. Easy!

How To Use:

How to make DIY Oat Bath Bags

Place under running water and leave to do it’s thing. You can give the bag a squeeze after a few minutes to help the oats release that oaty goodness.

Once you’re done you can just empty the contents into the bin and leave to dry for next time - no more blocked plug holes and bits all over the bath!

*Tip*

Customize your bath tea bags by adding salts (we like dead sea salts or pink himalayan), magnesium flakes, different clays or charcoal to detox or a blend of essential oils for aromatherapy benefits and soothing scents.

October 13, 2016

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DIY Easy All Natural Deodorant Cream

DIY All Natural Deodorant

It’s important to know what’s in your deodorant these days, especially when big corporations can get away with sneaking anything in their formulas! So why not make your own? This easy-breezy DIY deodorant takes 10 minutes to blend up and is effective at protecting you from both odour and sweat!

You Will Need:

Deodorant Baking Powder, Arrowroot and Shea

  • Empty jar
  • 3 tbsp Shea butter
  • 2 tbsp Coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp Carrier oil (jojoba, sunflower. etc)
  • 2.5 tbsp Arrowroot powder
  • 1 tbsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • Essential oil (optional)

Makes 1x120ml jar (adjust measurements for your own container)

Method:

Adding essential oils to DIY deodorant

In a bain marie or double boiler melt your shea butter and coconut oil together and remove from the heat.

Now add in the carrier oil (we’re using organic sunflower seed oil) and stir together before adding the 2.5 tbsp arrowroot powder and 1tbsp of the baking soda (some people are sensitive to this on their under arms, so feel feel to skip if that’s you! just add in an extra tbsp of the arrowroot instead).

Mix together until totally smooth.

Add 5-10 drops of essential oil. We used Lavender this time, but rose, neroli, peppermint, etc, would all work great! Use your favourite scent.

Give a final stir and transfer to your jar to set in the fridge (you may need to stir the mixture as it cools in the jar). The mixture should be a nice balmy texture once set depending on the surrounding temperature. If you live in a really warm climate, storing in the fridge may be the best bet.

How To Use:

Simply take a pea sized amount, melt between fingers and rub under arms. Let dry for a couple of seconds before putting on clothes.

October 05, 2016

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Tips for Deepening your Meditation Practice

Beautiful Waterfall
Meditation can be a tricky business. On one hand you feel like you should be putting in some effort in order to get something out of it in return, and on the other hand we expect to sit there and let the wisdom of the ages flood into our being and bring us to enlightenment without any effort on our part.

Without having a clear understanding of what you're doing you may end up day dreaming, kicking yourself every time a thought pops into your head, or becoming disappointed when you don't feel anything happening.

The most important thing is that you recognize the ultimate goal of meditation.

The ultimate goal of meditation is to immerse yourself in, and fully experience your own consciousness and awareness, or your True Self.

The True Self is who you are without the labels of time and space (gender, weight, occupation, race, social status). Ask yourself who you are at your core, without the stuff that can be written down on paper. Your unique you-ness. The part of you that doesn't change or grow like age, intellect, and height.

That is your awareness.

It's the same right now as it was when you were 3 years old, and the same as when you're 90. It's the self that's watching all of life unfold before you. It's the constant backdrop on which the moments of your life are experienced. 

So really, the Self is not some far deep down place we need to journey to, requiring hours of meditation. It's always there, and all we need to do is recognize it.

Here are some tips to deepen your meditation practice without feeling confused or discouraged:

1. Don't freak out when you have a thought, try to push away thoughts, judge yourself as a failure for having thoughts, or get fixated on the contents of a thought.

Do: Perceive with loving awareness the energy that comes up for you during meditation.  Notice each thought or feeling that comes up, say hi to it, and let it keep on going. When you find yourself getting too caught up in them, come back to noticing your breath, and start again. The practice is really about starting again when you drift away.

2. Don't challenge your "Self" or the universe to show up in a big way. "Ok, I'm meditating now, show me what ya got!"

Do: Bring to your practice an attitude of love, gentleness, and trust without grand expectations. 

3. Don't force yourself into meditation with a feeling of strict inflexibility. "UGH, I don't have time for this but I know I HAVE to meditate."

Do: Treat your practice as sacred. Create a beautiful space that invites you in. Set it up in a way that makes you yearn for the time you spend in meditation. See it as a gift from yourself, to yourself so you'll say "Thanks, me!" In time, the good energy you bring to this place will come to evoke feelings of relaxation, happiness, stillness and clarity, every time you go to it.

4. Don't feel Isolated or alone. Because you're not.

Do: Trust that there is a greater power beyond you that connects all things. There is a grace, a spirit that you connect with during meditation, that will support you and guide you. Some people like to envoke the energy of a religious figure like Jesus or Buddha, or maybe an ancient master without a religious affiliation. You may even want to call forth something more personal like your inner-guide or guardian angels if you so choose.

5. Don't try to stifle your emotions that are going on for you in that moment.

Do: Ask for help. If you are feeling restless, anxious, skeptical, bored, worried or anything that is going to take you away from stillness, offer it up in your meditation, and ask for it to be transformed. If you are struggling with a problem, offer it up at the beginning of your practice: "I offer these feelings up so they can be transformed, and I may see this situation differently."

You may find that when learning to trust your inner experiences you may be guided by your intuition toward a clearer course of action in your outer life. When gaining a deeper understanding of the True Self, the fears, negative thoughts, and suffering (which are merely products of our own misunderstanding of our ego) may be released. Happy meditating!

This post originally appeared on Bloom and Spark.

September 27, 2016

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10 DIY Avocado Face Masks

10 DIY Avocado Face Mask

Unless you’ve been living under an Instagram-less rock the past few years, it’s safe to say you’re well aware that the avocado is the reigning queen of the health food world (with kale as its king, of course).

And while avocado toast will always be one of our favorite go-to breakfast options, we’re also all about using avo as a major part of our natural beauty routines as well. Avocado is packed full of amazing health benefits that are just as beneficial for your skin as they are for your body. There are so many avocado mask benefits that we’re psyched to share with you here.

Avocado for Glowing Skin

  • Avocados are high in Oleic acid, which helps to keep your skin moisturized and it reduces skin inflammation. 
  • Antioxidants: Avocados have those cancer-fighting, cell-protecting molecules in spades.

  • Avocado will gently exfoliate skin

  • Anti-inflammatory: Avocado helps soothe irritated skin, reducing redness and puffiness that can make acne look worse than it is.

Avocado Mask for Acne

Natural Beauty Tips

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Organic yogurt
  • Honey

Yogurt is a powerfully effective acne-fighting ingredient as the lactic acid kills bacteria on your skin. 

Avocado and Honey Mask

Beauty Munsta

Ingredients:

Raw honey is found in a lot of different face masks. For one, it has the right consistency to stick on your face. But the main reason is because it makes your skin moist and soft. If you're using Manuka honey you might want to heat it up a little bit because it's VERY thick.

Avocado Oatmeal Face Mask for Dry Skin 

Spontaneous Chick

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Oatmeal 

Oatmeal is another extremely popular DIY face mask ingredient found in your kitchen. I like to grind the oats up a little bit before I use them as this creates a better exfoliant. When I was a tyke I remember getting a bad case of poison ivy, the thing that helped settle the itching down more than anything else was oatmeal baths because it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Avocado and Egg White Face Mask for Oily Skin 

Bellatory

Ingredients:

  • Egg white
  • Avocado

Egg whites acts as a natural astringent which is to say it helps to shrink skin. They also help to temporarily remove fine lines and wrinkles. It's not an anti-aging treatment, but if you're going out for an evening you may want to consider applying an egg mask before leaving.

*Helpful hint: start your mask application at your chin and work upward to your forehead so that the bottom dries quicker, preventing dripping! 

Avocado, Honey and Cinnamon Face Mask 

FS Fashionista

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon

We've already talked about how honey makes your face moist, leaving it looking and feeling fresh. Cinnamon is antibacterial which is great for helping to fight acne. Make sure you spot test this mask first, because some might find it irritates skin. 

Helpful tip: To spot test place some on the inside of your elbow. This area is very similar to facial skin. If that's a go, I still like to spot test on a small patch on my face, preferably somewhere that my hair can hide before slathering it all over my face. If you react negatively to a facemask it's best your entire face isn't red and blotchy!

Avocado and Turmeric Face Mask to Brighten Skin 

Avocado and Turmeric Face Mask

Image & recipe by: Naive Cook Cooks

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Yogurt
  • Lemon juice
  • Turmeric

Yogurt is another star in the DIY face mask world, it's hydrating which is terrific for dry skin. For the best results pick up organic, greek yogurt. Avoid yogurts with sugar and flavouring that dominates the majority of super-market shelves. 

Lemon will help to fight acne, because like cinnamon it is anti-bacterial.

Turmeric is one a powerful herbal supplement that has been studied extensively. A word of warning; turmeric can stain your skin leaving it with a slightly orange-ish tinge. Like any other facemask, spot check this before you get too carried away.

Turmeric is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory which makes it ideal for fighting acne. It'll help to reduce redness and help to heal acne scars. In addition to this more and more studies are finding that there is a link between anti-oxidants and aging (wrinkles and fine lines).

Detoxing Avocado Mask

Lil Miss Organic

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Honey
  • Rose water
  • Water
  • Bentonite clay
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Kelp
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Ground oats

This face mask contains loads of natural ingredients that are amazing for your skin. We've already discussed how honey is hydrating and oats act as a natural exfoliant and anti-inflammatory. 

Rose water is a natural astringent which can help reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles and pore size. The bentonite clay also helps to minimize pores while helping to control the production of sebum.

Mint gives this mask a delicious smell, it's also a mild astringent and anti-bacterial. 

Avocado and Cucumber Face Mask  

Sunset Grown

Ingredients:

  • English cucumber, peeled
  • Avocado, pitted and chopped
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Lemon juice
  • Egg white

Directions: Blend ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Apply to clean skin and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and moisturize if necessary.

Avocado and Carrot Face Mask

Styles at Life

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Olive oil (or Argan Oil)
  • Carrot

While olive oil isn't the most ideal skin care oil (I would recommend rose hip or argan oil) it also isn't the worst. It's non-comedogenic, and contains some Linoleic Acid. Lionleic Acid may be one of the causes of acne. Unfortunately Linoleic Acid goes rancid quickly, so cooking oils which require longer shelf lives tend to have higher percentages of Oleic Acid.

So in short, yes you can use Olive Oil but I'd recommend another oil that is better suited to skin care.

The carrot will be turned into a paste along and mixed with the avocado and oil. It's antiseptic which helps to kill bacteria, another cause of skin problems. 

Avocado and Fruit Face Mask

Glow Pink

Ingredients:

  • Mashed avocado
  • Mashed banana
  • Olive oil (or Argan oil)
  • Fresh orange juice

Again, olive oil and again I'll recommend substituting it for a friendly oil, like Argan oil. The banana could very well be for textural purposes, but it is mildly exfoliating. Orange juice is high in Vitamin E which is a popular vitamin in serums for it's ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

You’ll Be Glowing In No Time

With so many options for a customized avocado face mask, you’re sure to get covetable, glowing skin in no time. We’re major proponents of using natural, raw ingredients when it comes to skincare— if we wouldn’t

Header Image Credit:

Adobe Stock // cwzahner

    September 16, 2016

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    Types of Facial Serums and How to Use Them

     

    Complete Guide to Serums

    The ten step Korean skincare routine (this is a great guide to a "clean" version) has taken over the beauty blogosphere and K beauty e-commerce sites like Soko Glam and Peach and Lily have popped up recently to fulfill the world’s skincare needs.

    One of those ten steps is a facial serum and we believe it’s the most beneficial and important steps in the process.

    What is a Facial Serum?

    A serum is a supercharged, super lightweight moisturizer. With heavier ingredients like creams or butters left out of the formula, the active ingredients have a higher concentration and are able to penetrate the skin’s surface easier. The formulas are usually oil-based and penetrate the skin quickly and throughly. 

    Dermatologists recommend using a serum in conjunction with a heavier, traditional moisturizer (ideally one that also contains SPF); it’s best to use them at night so the serum has time to work its magic while you sleep.

    And to truly gauge whether a serum has made a significant impact on your skin’s health and appearance, we suggest giving it a full month of regular use to judge its effectiveness. 

    The Difference Between Serums, Essences and Ampoules

    What’s the difference between a serum, an essence and an ampoule? In short: not much! While Korean beauty followers may beg to differ, we believe choosing one of the three for your pre-moisturizer step is adequate. All three are lightweight, oil-based and concentrated with active ingredients targeting a specific skincare concern.

    With that said, serums are often thicker in consistency and more concentrated than an essence, though, again, there is little noticeable differentiation here. Ampoules are not meant for everyday use and are instead high powered serums to use in times of serious skincare stress.

    Types of Facial Serums

    The number of facial serums on the market today - Korean beauty or otherwise - can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the product. Plus, serums tend toward the pricey side, making it a serious skincare misstep if you choose the wrong one!

    Luckily, they’re easily broken down into categories based on their major benefits so you can target your most pressing skincare concern with ease (on both your mind and your wallet).

    Additionally, while you can absolutely use a serum all over your face, you can just as easily use it as a spot treatment to target specific concerns (and saving you money). 

    Free Radical Eliminating Serums (Pomegranate & Vitamin E)

    Environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke, smog, radiation and herbicides can cause free radicals to form in your cells. Free radicals oxidize your healthy cells and that oxidization can cause potentially cancer-causing chain reactions of unstable cells to form in your body. Free radicals can also cause premature aging, sun spots and hyper-pigmentation.

    Antioxidants are free radical-fighting compounds that are found both in our body and in certain natural substances like pomegranates and Vitamin E. These antioxidant rich serums are skin repairing powerhouses and great for all skin types.

    Evan Healy Pomegranate Repair Serum $$$

    Evan Healy Repair Serum for Face

    Ingredients

    Pomegranate seed oil (Punica granatum)*, rose hip seed oil (Rosa canina),* jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis)* Sea buckthorn berry (Hippophae rhamnoides) CO2*, and vitamin E (tocopherol).


    Pomegranate is rich with antioxidants and other restorative properties so you’re not only fighting free radicals with this pomegranate serum, you're also helping reduce the appearance of fine lines and reverse sun damage.

    This Evan Healy serum has added sea buckthorn oil that contains high levels of “punicic acid, essential fatty acids, carotenes, tocopherols and phytosterols,” which are essential elements in maintaining healthy skin.

     

    Vitamin E serum s another antioxidant-rich option for those of us looking to protect our skin from environmental pollutants. It’s one of the most basic serums you can find which makes it a perfect option for serum newbies. Its purity also makes it a good option as a base to mix with a more targeted, complex serum.

    Skin Essence Organics Nourish Serum $$

    Skin Essence Moisturizing Serum

    Ingredients

    Jojoba Seed Oil*, Rosehip Seed Oil*, Macadamia Nut Oil*, Apricot Kernel Oil*, Orange Oil*, Kukui Nut Oil, Neroli Flower Oil*, Tocopherol (Vitamin-E)*, Jasmine oil*, Evening Primrose Oil*, Zinc Oxide ^


    Skin Essence Organic's Vitamin E Serum has been formulated for combination skin types. In addition to being rich in Vitamin E, it's full of Vitamin C which we explain below.

    Anti Aging Serums (Vitamin C) & Retinol (Vitamin A)

    Collagen is responsible for maintaining plumpness in our skin— so it’s an essential component to maintaining a young looking face! As we age, collagen production naturally slows down thus fine lines and wrinkles start to appear.

    Vitamin C helps stimulate collagen production, making a Vitamin C Serum a perfect choice for those of us who are looking to slow down the aging train. L-ascorbic acid is another way you’ll see a Vitamin C serum listed on a skincare product; it’s actually the active antioxidant in the Vitamin C compound. 

    Go Pure Vitamin C Serum ($16)

    Go Pure Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid

    Ingredients

    Organic Herbal Infusion, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide (botanical hyaluronic acid), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), d-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate ^ (Vitamin E), Carbomer, (2s)-2-Amino-5-guanidinopentanoic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Kosher Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Phenoxyethanol ^ , Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin.


    With added aloe, jojoba oil and hyaluronic acid, you’re getting quite the impactful product for a seriously sweet price. Your skin will look younger, stay hydrated and even out with a single swipe!

     

    A common ingredient in a number of serums is Retinol. Retinol serums are much like Vitamin C serums in that they help increase cell turnover and helps slow down collagen loss. It also evens skin tone and is hydrating so you’re getting the added benefit of plumper, healthier looking skin too.

    The problem? There is some evidence that Retinol reacts with UV rays forming harmful free radicals that may be toxic to our skin [1].

    The studies primarily focus on Vitamin A in sunscreens and the potential harm caused by exposing Vitamin A to UV rays. To stay on the safe side, I always use Vitamin A serums at night to limit any UV exposure.

    Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum $$

    Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum
    Ingredients

    Deionized Water, Carthamus Tinctorious (Safflower) Seed Oil, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Retinyl Retinoate ^, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Xanthan Gum, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Fruit Extract, Fragaria Ananassa (Pineberry) Extract, Oat Beta Glucan, Phytoceramide, Steam Distilled Aurantifolia (Lime) Essential Oil, Alpha Lipoic acid, N Acetyl D Glucosamine


    Mad Hippie claims their Vitamin A serum helps increase collagen production, reverse sun damage and even skin tone— and their reviewers seem to agree!

    We like Mad Hippie because they don’t pack their products full of unnecessary (or harsh) ingredients; you know each ingredient in this serum is natural and necessary.

    Anti Inflammatory Serums (Aloe and Green Tea Serums)

    In the same way we use aloe vera to soothe our angry skin after a wicked sunburn, we can also use aloe vera serums regularly as part of our skincare routine to help calm irritated skin and reduce redness.

    Dose of C Serum with Aloe Vera Serum $$

    Aloe Vera Serum with Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid

    Ingredients

    Organic Herbal Infusion, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide (botanical hyaluronic acid), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Carbomer, (2s)-2-Amino-5-guanidinopentanoic Acid, Kosher Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Phenoxyethanol ^, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin.


    Not only is aloe vera a major ingredient in this natural serum it also contains Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid. It's recommended for all skin types and can be used in the evening or the morning. 

     

    A green tea serum is another gentle, soothing skincare ingredient that works to fight inflammation and calm skin.

    Eminence Green Tea and Guava Fortifying Serum $$

    Eminence Green Tea and Guava Serum

    Ingredients

    Green Tea, Guava Juice, Honey, Natural Moisturizing Factor, Tara Tree Extract, Aloe Juice, Biocomplex (Vitamin A, Vitamin C Ester, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid), Vegetable Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Guava Essence, Lemon Oil, Sodium Salicylate, Sodium Benzoate ^, Potassium Sorbate^.


    With green tea listed as the first ingredient of this serum, you know you’re getting the highest concentration of the best ingredient. It also contains aloe, Vitamin E and Vitamin C so it’s almost like you’re getting four serums in one.

    Hydrating Serums (Hyaluronic Acid, Argan Oil and Rose Oil Serums)

    Hyaluronic acid serum may sound scary but fear not! It’s actually incredibly moisturizing. The acid helps your skin retain moisture over a long period and gets deep down, hydrating your skin from within. A pump of this will keep your skin looking plump and fresh all day. Mix with your favorite anti-aging or brightening serum to make this skincare step pull double duty.

    Passport to Organic Hyaluronic Acid Serum $

    Hyaluronic Acid Serum Organic

    Ingredients

    Aloe Vera, Hyaluronic Acid, Potassium Sorbate^, Citric Acid


    Passport to Organic’s serum contains 1% of pure Hyaluronic Acid. It's also made up of 98% organic ingredients which is impressive as far as serums go. It is only made up of four ingredients; Aloe Vera, Hyaluronic Acid, Potassium Sorbate and Citric Acid. 

     

    Argan oil is probably the most common hydrating serum on the market today. It’s gentle, non-comedogenic and perfect for all skin types. Argan oil comes from the kernels of a Moroccan tree and is often referred to as “liquid gold” for its skin nourishing properties. If you’re new to the facial serum world and want to dip your toe, an Argan serum is definitely the way to go.

    Josie Maran 100% Cold Pressed Organic Argan Oil $$

    Josie Maran Argan Oil 100% Pure

    Ingredients

    Argan Oil


    This is the OG of Argan oils: only a few years ago, Argan oil was reserved for dusty natural food stores shelves, Josie Maran brought it into major beauty shops, thus anointing the oil mainstream. It’s pure, it’s organic, it works.

    Rose serums are yet another option that delivers major moisture benefits to the skin.

    Evan Healy Rosehip Treatment Serum $$$

    Rosehip Facial Treatment Serum

    Ingredients

    Organic Rosehip Seed Fruit Oil, Organic Jojoba Seed Oil, Organic Rose Geranium Oil,Organic Carrot Fruit Oil, Organic Sandalwood Wood Oil, Organic Lavender Flower Oil,Organic Rose Otto Flower Oil, Vitamin E (Tocopherol).


    You’ll notice a major difference in your skin’s plumpness, brightness and overall health almost immediately with this one. Everything with the exception of the Vitamin E is organic, a big plus in our books.

    Acne Fighting Serums (Salicylic Acid)

    Salicylic acid serums are the grown up version of Clean and Clear face wash. The well-known and super effective ingredient is many people’s first defense when it comes to clearing up the occasional pimple or preventing acne breakouts. You can find salicylic acid in so many products, from face wash to spot treatments.

    While Salicylic acid is a powerful ingredient (and effective) it's a synthetic one which has some warning flags, which is why we choose not to highlight a Salicylic Acid Serum in this list.

     

    DIY Facial Serums

    Because serums are meant to be hyper-focused on targeting a specific skincare concern and free of unnecessary ingredients, making a DIY facial serum at home is actually quite simple. And can honestly be as easy as buying a bottle of Vitamin E oil and Vitamin C oil adding a few drops of each to your regular daily moisturizer. 

    *be sure to use amber colored glass bottles when you make your serums as many of the active ingredients can become unstable if exposed to direct sunlight.

    Simple DIY Argan Oil Facial Serum

    Coconuts and Kettlebells

    Because it only includes Argan oil, jojoba oil and lavender essential oil, this DIY serum is light on your skin, time and your wallet. If you’re not ready to commit to an expensive store-bought serum and need to experiment a bit first, try this one. It smells good, is super hydrating and won’t break the bank. 

    Anti Aging Serum 

    The Dabblist 

    This guest post from Jenni Raincloud contains macadamia nut oil, meadow foam seed oil, frankincense essential oil, lavender and myrtle essential oil— lots of potent and healing oils we’ve not yet discussed (and not readily found in store bought serums) but effective nonetheless.

    Macadamia nut oil contains Palmitoleic Acid which is a compound that is naturally found in our skin, though it diminishes over time. It helps decrease how quickly the skin ages and is also full of natural antioxidants (which we’ve already waxed poetic about more than once here!) 

    Meadowfoam seed oil creates a natural barrier between your skin and the sun, decreasing your chance for sun damage and fine lines and wrinkles.

    DIY Serum for Acne 

    Live Simply

    This serum is so gentle and nourishing, you don’t even need to follow up with a traditional moisturizer. It’s especially nice in the summer months when your skin is craving something lightweight.

    Squalane oil is the main ingredient in this one, which is true for many store bought serums as well. The nourishing oil was first discovered in shark liver (stay with us) but has since been found naturally occurring in olives as well. It’s antibacterial, an antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation. It has also been found to penetrate the skin better than many other popular oils (almond, coconut, jojoba) that simply sit on top of the skin.

    It also includes bergamot oil and tea tree oil, both of which are antibacterial and tone the skin— two key components of keeping your skin clear. Balanced with nourishing Argan oil, this serum works as a simple spot treatment or an all over serum for those days when you’re feeling extra oily.

    Moisturizing Serum

    Hello Glow

    For an everyday, nourishing facial serum, we love this simple formula from Hello Glow. Aloe vera calms while Vitamin E moisturizes— and with a few drops of an essential oil, the custom options are endless! Lavender, chamomile and rose help calm your skin and reduce redness and irritation.

    DIY Hydrating Serum

    Gold Mountain Beauty

    Our DIY beauty expert created this DIY Hydrating Night Time Serum. It contains Pomegranate oil, Jojoba oil, Castor oil, Rosehip oil and Vitamin E which helps to repair and moisturize while you sleep.

    Serums: Your First Foray into K Beauty?

    So, have we convinced you to try a serum yet?! We hope now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of what specific serums and ingredients can do to transform your skin, you’ll either make your first foray into the Korean beauty skincare step or decide to branch out buying trying new ones.

    Flagged Ingredients: 

    We've placed a ^ beside certain ingredients.

    This doesn't mean an ingredient is unhealthy or by any means unsafe. While we personally believe in using organic and naturally derived ingredients, we also understand why certain synthetics are in beauty products. It's also the reason we always try to include DIY options in all of our posts.

    If an ingredient has a ^ it means it's received a 3 or worse in EWG Skin Deep database. We encourage you to do your own research and formulate your own opinion about that particular ingredient. 

    Skin Essence Organics: Zinc Oxide (Non-Nano)
    Go Pure Vitamin C Serum: PhenoxyethanolAlpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)
    Mad Hippie Vitamin A SerumRetinyl Retinoate
    Eminence Green Tea and Guava Serum : Sodium BenzoatePotassium Sorbate
    Dose of C Serum with Aloe Vera: Phenoxyethanol

    Sources 

    What Scientists Say About Vitamin Suncreen. September 22, 2016.
    http://www.ewg.org/research/what-scientists-say-about-vitamin-sunscreen

    What Is Face Serum. September 19, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/03/what-is-face-serum_n_6761412.html

    New Serums to Brighten Protect and Nurture Your Skin. September 19, 2016.
    http://www.byrdie.com/new-serums-to-brighten-protect-and-nurture-your-skin-4-4-13/slide10

    Keys to Unlocking the Benefits of Vitamin C September 19, 2016.
    http://www.skininc.com/skinscience/ingredients/Keys-to-Unlocking-the-Benefits-of-Vitamin-C-181434171.html

    Understanding Free Radicals and . September 19, 2016.
    http://www.healthchecksystems.com/antioxid.htm

    September 15, 2016

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    DIY Neem & Charcoal Detox Scalp Spray

    DIY Neem & Charcoal Hair Spray

    From time to time we all need a little scalp TLC. We buy our shampoo and conditioner based on what our hair needs, not the scalp, and then there’s the dry shampoo, hairspray, volume mists and leave in conditioners that start to add up and build up.

    The scalp is just as important to look after to ensure healthy hair growth, so whip up our easy-peasy scalp spray to reset and revitalize in just a few minutes.

    Detox Scalp Spray Benefits

    Charcoal adsorbs with oil and dirt from the scalp to leave it feeling clean and fresh without drying out your delicate scalp - it’s especially good for those with flaky scalps, or any irritations on the scalp too.

    Neem is an anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It soothes and relieves eczema symptoms, dandruff and itching. With regular use it will strengthen the roots and improve the health of your hair, too! 

    Detox Spray Ingredients

    Detox Spray Method

    Add one teaspoon of neem powder and one teaspoon of charcoal powder to your spray bottle (use a funnel to avoid mess - we made one out of paper) and then pour in 100ml of purified water or cooled boiled water. Shake before each use and store in the fridge for up to a month. 

    How To Use

    Use 10-30 minutes before washing your hair. Beginning at the base of your scalp, section the hair into one inch increments and spray onto the scalp. Once the scalp is fully sprayed, massage into the roots, wait the desired amount of time and then wash out.

    Hair will feel squeaky clean and will need to be washed twice to ensure all of the charcoal is removed (especially if you have light coloured hair).

    Use once a week for an oily scalp or once every two weeks for a normal to dry scalp. 

    *Our tip*

    Use the waiting time after application to also apply coconut oil to the ends of your hair for seriously lush locks!

    August 31, 2016

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    Homemade Natural Muscle Rub Cream

    If you want to get to the source, and help your muscles heal naturally, you'll need to provide them with beneficial healing properties. A muscle salve is the perfect solution — helping you restore function more rapidly, without the use of medications. View full article →
    August 25, 2016

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    A How To Guide: Facial Steaming

    Unfortunately, for many of us, the luxury of taking a spa day isn’t financially feasible or doesn’t fit into our schedules. That doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge and give your skin some much needed TLC with an at home steam facial.  View full article →
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