Monday, September 05, 2011

Affordable and (Earth) Savvy Cosmetics: Under $20

Physician's Formula Organic Wear

Why it's a better choice: This brand is 'Eco-Cert' certified, which is a globally recognized guarantee that environmentally responsible practices are upheld in all aspects of the product. That means the packaging is made using significantly less plastic, does not contain synthetic fragrances, preservatives, GMOs, or parabens. They also do not test on animals.

What I've noticed: The loose powder gives as much coverage as a liquid foundation and takes less time to apply with a brush. It also has decent staying power for a powder foundation. The lipgloss has good color payoff without being sticky and has a subtle fruity smell. They offer a blush/bronzer duo which I love, and the bronzer is naturally shimmery, without being too sparkly. Last but not least, there are eyeshadow duos that come in pretty color combos for every eye color, even hazel. The eyeliners that correspond to the eyeshadows are creamy and stay put.

Drawbacks: The brush that comes with the loose powder is coarse and doesn't distribute the product very well. It's best to use your own makeup brush with this one. I would also highly recommend using an eye primer with the shadows, as they are very sheer. The blush by itself do I put this? It sucks. I purchased Blushing Organics, and it didn't even show up on my skin. I returned it and purchased it in their deepest mauve, Rosy Organics, and got the same result. Don't bother trying it.

However, my main issue with this brand is that they do not
provide enough color options in the loose powder for most skin tones. The 'medium' loose powder hardly merits the name, as it blends well with my very light would probably wash out someone with a deeper skin tone. However, if you do have fair or light skin, this is a fun line to try. Bottom line, the lipgloss, eyeliner, bronzer/blush duo, and bronzers are great. The foundation is awesome when applied with your own brush, and the blush is a waste of money.

Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy
Why it's a better choice: While this brand is not eco-certified, the quality of the ingredients is pretty impressive for a drugstore brand. The products do not contain parabens or pthalates, and they do not test on animals. Also, the co-creator, Carmindy, is from 'What Not To Wear'. She is the make-up artist with the sweet disposition (not to mention she's gorgeous!) and is a big believer in self-confidence on the inside out. The fact that she helped coordinate the palettes and choose the colors, not to mention she actually uses the products on the show, tells me they're of good quality.

What I've noticed: The concealer is hands-down the best product. It's
creamy, but not tacky, conceals redness, puffiness, and dark circles. Not bad for under $10. There is a pink concealer for overall brightening and three skin-matching shades. This brand also carries an eye primer, which is so cool for a drugstore brand. There are also more foundation options for various skin tones and it covers redness really well. It's also lightweight and fragrance free. The lipgloss is also very pretty and comes in a variety of colors. It also doesn't feel sticky.

The cream blush blends evenly and is simple to apply, leaving a pretty sheen on your face and acts as a blush and highlighter in one. The eyeliner is also long lasting and goes on smooth.

However, my favorite are the eyeshadow palettes. They each contain three coordinating colors, and come labeled so you know which is for the lid, contour, and liner. They also have great pigmentation, so you can skip the primer if you want. Even the little eyeshadow brush it comes with is useful; it has one end for the eyeshadows and a thin end for the liner. Perfect for when you don't want to carry all your brushes around.

Drawbacks: They've recently cut down their color choices (they used to have 8 options in the eyeshadows; now they have 4),
which bums me out a little. Also there is one ingredient that concerns me a little, which is dimethicone (a silicon); a manufactured polymer that can clog pores, causing skin to break out. It's not that big of a deal if you know your skin can handle it. So far, I haven't experienced any issues using products with this ingredient, but if you know your skin is sensitive, you may want to try something else. There was also some hype about dimethicone being non-biodegradable and 'bad' for our water, but I haven't found any conclusive scientific data on this (not that it isn't out there...if anyone does know of a scientific paper on this matter, I would be very interested). Still, I'm keeping my eyes peeled just in case a new study comes out.

I like to call these crap-free cosmetics. My definition of 'crap-free' is that the cosmetics do not contain parabens, pthalates, petrolatum, microplastics, or sulfates, and make use of ingredients that are naturally occurring (technically petrolatum [derived from petroleum] is natural, but the fact that we drill it from the ground kind of nullifies this fact. If we didn't drill for petroleum, it probably wouldn't be on the surface to begin with). Naturally occurring ingredients are, at least to me, edible and/or biodegradable constituents like olive, rose, chamomile, lavender, and beeswax. Basically ingredients that aren't going to persist in the environment for prolonged periods of time (more than it takes for a tree to decompose, which is approximately 25 years), and actually break down completely.

While the 'green movement' (for lack of a better term) is becoming more and more prominent in drugstores, it is evident there are still kinks in the production of crap-free cosmetics. Biodegradable products are great for the environment, but they also need to work well for us. No one wants to spend a ton of money on a mediocre product, no matter how 'earth friendly' it is. Hopefully this gives you some ideas of what to look for in cosmetics at the drugstore to keep yourself healthy and reduce your impact.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brand Lovin': Love & Toast

Love & Toast is the whimsical creation of indie-beauty-brand-genius Margot Elena Wells. Along with Love & Toast, Wells has two other brands called Lollia Life and Tokyo Milk.

Each of Wells' brands have their own unique personality, yet if you take a moment to explore all three, you'll notice there is a sense of continuity between them. Personally, I think the continuity Wells' has established is simply her signature style peeking through - which I would say is eclectic, whimsical, elegant, and oh-so indie. In fact, it should be noted that all of Wells' brands are so detail oriented that they are best suited for small boutiques or storefronts, this way they have the opportunity to be fully appreciated.

What makes Love & Toast such a wonderful brand is not only the whimsical packaging, but the message behind it: "It is just as important to do good, as it is to look good." (They forgot to mention you'll smell really good too!)

With every purchase made from Love & Toast you are aiding the non-profit Girls Inc., which is an organization that empowers young women to be "strong, smart, and bold." The fantastic thing about Girls Inc. is that it has " ... programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. Major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation." (Source.)

As a young woman myself, I really enjoy the idea of an organization that supports future generations of young women to be strong and independent.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Love & Toast is also a supporter of quality ingredients too. Their products do not contain parabens, phthlates (high-doses of this chemical have been related to hormone level changes which may cause birth defects), petrolatum, are never animal tested, don't include animal ingredients, artificial colors, and the packaging is sourced from "100% annually renewed resources."

Currently, I'm using the Gin Blossom Handcreme, and I absolutely love it. Not only does it smell amazing, but it's incredibly moisturizing and smartly packaged in a squeeze tube. I will definitely be purchasing from this brand again, only next time I'm getting the Cherry Lemonade Lip Balm (this smells just like the real thing!).

To browse Love & Toast's ingredient list per product type, please view the following:

- Emily

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cheap and Conscious Clothing and Shoes

Did you know that there are 'eco-friendly' clothing options available at retail stores? I know a lot of this is old news for some people, but I think it's important to revisit the idea, because these stores have continued to manufacture goods with consideration for the environment.

For clothing, H&M offers a few options made with organic cotton. They've also made clothing out of tencel, which is the trademark name for Lyocell, a fabric textile made from wood cellulose. It is more biodegradable than cotton, feels a bit like rayon (though not always), and it resists wrinkling. I own a pair of shorts and two shirts made from this fabric, and I've found that they also have wicking properties, which is nice in the summer. H&M also produces clothing made from recycled materials, and have recently incorporated hemp, a sustainable fiber. They also mark their 'conscious' products with green tags, so they're easy to spot in the store.

Every spring, it seems that H&M comes out with an environmentally conscious line; last year it was the Garden Collection and this year it was the Conscious Collection. However, they do offer some organic cotton choices during the off-season in the form of t-shirts, long-sleeved v-necks and scoopnecks, and dresses.

I recently purchased a pretty navy v-neck tee with flower detailing for about $13, and it is currently one of my favorites. Also, the t-shirt I'm wearing in the site picture is also from H&M and made from organic cotton. While I don't think organic cotton is the most environmentally friendly material in the world, it's a good start for a big company like H&M.

Here are some examples of what they've done in the past:

For more information about H&M's Conscious initiative, please visit

For shoes, Payless has a line called zoe&zac, a collection of cute and comfortable shoes made with recycled rubber and organic cotton. In the recent past, they've made boots, flats, and sandals, all while attempting to adopt sustainable practices. They don't contain formaldehyde, which is a suspected carcinogen, and are manufactured with low heavy metals (some of which can bioaccumulate within the body and cause lung cancer). Plus, they're adorable! If you've seen the site picture, you'll see that I'm wearing the silver flats in brown.

zoe&zac also makes accessories, like bags, scarves, and socks. I currently own a black satchel from this line that I purchased over a year ago and it is so versatile, I've been using it ever since. I only change when I have more to carry and irrationally want to lug everything I own around. The prices of these shoes range from approximately $20 to $36, and when Payless has a BoGo sale, it's a decent deal. As you can see, I'm a little obsessed:

Another great thing about this line is that it was co-created by Summer Rayne Oakes, a Cornell University graduate, gorgeous model, and environmental scientist. She made a name for herself by working only for designers who use sustainable and low impact materials, and adopting 'values-based' modeling to generate environmental awareness. She wrote a book called 'Style, Naturally', which is a 'shopping guide for sustainable fashion and beauty' ( It has introduced me to brands and products I didn't know existed (A bag made from recycled seat belts that actually looks attractive? Hold the phone!)

Knowing that her expertise was taken into consideration in the creation of these shoes gives me some assurance that Payless is making strides in adopting sustainable business practices. For more information about zoe&zac (or to buy their cute-ass shoes!) visit:

While shopping is a form a therapy for me (and I'm sure I'm not alone), it's better to reduce and reuse before recycling; that way you'll have already reduced your footprint before you've made a purchase, while saving money in the process. I am absolutely NOT perfect when it comes to this concept, as you can see from my pile o' shoes. However, by being aware of businesses that adopt sustainable fashion ideals, I can attempt to satiate my shopping cravings while saving money and being (at least somewhat) environmentally aware. Hopefully this gives you some ideas and perspectives on what to look for when you shop.

Until next post,
- Jessica

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ingredients to Avoid

Every week, I plan on posting about ingredients that are potentially harmful to our bodies and/or the environment and discuss the reasons they should be avoided. I will also provide alternatives to popular domestic products that are less caustic. This week, I’ll be focusing on microplastics.


Polyethylene and acrylates copolymer are currently being investigated as microplastics, which are materials that have recently become a hot topic in environmental research. A microplastic is any piece of plastic <5mm in diameter and is virtually incapable of breaking down completely. Fish and seabirds may mistake microplastics for food. If ingested, its resistance to decomposition convinces the animal that they are full, even though they’re really just full of plastic. They eventually starve to death, which not only has implications for hastening species decline, but it also has the capacity to affect the fishing industry.

Furthermore, microplastics have the affinity to absorb toxic pollutants, like PCBs and DDT. PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls and they are used as coolant fluids in electric motors. DDT stands for dichloro - diphenyl - trichloroethane, and was used as an insecticide since the 1940’s, but was banned in the ‘70s for its debilitating effects on bird species and their offspring. It is extremely persistent, which means that it takes a very long time to break down. Although they’re banned, they are still present in nature and have been for over 30 years. These pollutants are known to accumulate in fatty tissues, and can actually bioaccumulate (increase in concentration within the body) up trophic levels (food chains). That means (if you like fish or duck for food) you might have actually ingested microplastics at one point or another. Our tap water is not currently being treated for microplastics at water treatment plants, which means tiny pieces of plastic are being directly deposited into water bodies every day.

However, it is not fully understood how this ingredient directly affects marine ecosystems. While the above photo is proof enough for me to regulate the use of microplastics, there is not enough research done on every aspect of marine environments, such as sediments, organisms that eat the sediments, fish that eat these organisms, and birds that eat these fish. More research is required in order to change current policies on water quality.

This ingredient is generally used as an exfoliant in personal care products such as facial scrubs and body wash. Here are some examples of products that contain microplastics:
  • Olay Pore Minimizing Cleanser + Scrub

  • Clean and Clear Morning Burst Detoxifying Facial Scrub

  • Aveeno Skin Brightening Scrub

  • Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub

    Here are some examples of products that do not contain microplastics:
    • Burt’s Bees Peach and Willowbark Deep Pore Scrub

    • Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Pore Scrub

    • Alba AcneDote Face and Body Scrub

    • Hugo Naturals Dead Sea Salt Scrub

    While I don't use a ton of body or face scrubs, I personally like Burt's Bees Peach and Willowbark Scrub and Acne Solutions Scrub. St. Ives scrubs are also generally natural, but be warned: some of their facial cleansers contain microplastics, so read labels carefully! Ingredients like walnut shells, crushed peach pits, sugar, and salt are biodegradable and won't persist in the environment for prolonged periods of time, so opt for a body or face scrub with these ingredients over microplastics.

    Please read labels before purchasing, and don't assume something is free of microplastics because it contains 'natural' ingredients. For more information, please visit

    Until the next post,
    - Jessica

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Photography Terms You Should Be Familiar With

    Are you looking to purchase a new digital camera but aren't quite sure where to begin? Or perhaps you've browsed several electronics stores and online storefronts only to find yourself puzzled by the latest jargon?

    If you apply to either of those categories then this upcoming series of photography articles will help you understand what all the "latest jargon" means, and how it effects your photos. Over the next several posts I will be going into detail and explaining approximately four different photography terms. All of these terms are fairly basic, but fundamental. In fact, I think these are terms everyone should be aware of before purchasing a digital camera.

    And if you're wondering how I came up with the idea for this series, it's as simple as the following: I am asked these questions at my workplace on a regular basis by clients. As a photographer, it made me realize just how confused people are by advertisements that highlight pointless information - that's right, megapixels are not as important as they seem (don't worry, we're explaining that one too)!

    If you're curious to learn more about who I am and my photography, please head on over to our "About" page.

    Optical Zoom verses Digital Zoom

    Many of the clients I help see "Optical Zoom" highlighted on the camera's description card, and they often look at me in a puzzled manner or ignore it. I suppose it's one of the terms you could ignore (ignorance is bliss, right?), but 90% of the time curiosity draws people to ask me "What does this mean?"

    Optical zoom is what I like to call the actual zoom, you may even see it be referred to as "true zoom" as well. I call it this because it's the actual zoom of the lens. Or better yet, it's the furthest the actual lens will go. Zoom on point and shoot cameras is defined as 5x, 10x, 15x, etc. All this really means is that the lens is bringing your subject x amount of times closer to you. Therefore, if you are photographing wildlife, the camera will bring the deer 10 times closer to you.

    When shopping for a camera, you want the most optical zoom because it is the highest quality of zoom to have. Anything other than optical zoom delivers poor quality photos because it is not using the features or quality of the lens to obtain your picture.

    As for digital zoom, think of it more like a "software zoom." Essentially, what's happening is the lens can no longer go any further, so the camera takes the image from the maximum zoom of the actual lens (optical zoom) and crops it into a larger version. This is why the quality of digital zoom photos are very poor - because it's the software inside of the camera that's giving you the picture, not the lens.

    To see how this works visually, check out the image below.

    With digital zoom the rabbit's eye appears very pixelated, fuzzy, etc. Whereas with optical zoom, the rabbit's eye is sharp and easy to distinguish. Obviously, you want the most optical zoom because it's the best quality, as seen here.

    When you go shopping for cameras make sure to hold the camera and play with it - I recommend this to all my clients so they can get a true feel of the camera. Also make sure that when you're doing this to zoom in and see what the difference looks like between optical and digital zoom. Most cameras will list how far zoomed in they are when you're zooming, others will identify this with a vertical line on the zoom bar (see below).

    Anything past the vertical line will be the digital zoom (which you want to avoid using, unless you're just testing out cameras).

    Good luck on the camera hunt!
    - Emily

    Thinking about submitting a question, or want us to cover a specific topic? Head on over to our "Contact" page to message us!

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Ideas for Keeping a Food Journal

    I am sure you have heard of keeping a food journal before, but have you ever actually tried it? If so, were you consistent with it, or did it your interest in it wane?

    Well, if you are anything like me, you might not be so good at it. Simply because it becomes such a tedious procedure to log everything you have eaten. The worst part is, if you forget to log anything, it becomes very difficult to remember the candy you may have (or not) eaten around 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

    Currently I am keeping a food log (wish me luck!), not just to log food and caloric intake, but to also keep track of my workout routines and my blood sugar levels since I am a Type I Diabetic.

    For me, the most prominent reason for keeping a food log is to lose weight and get down to my goal, but also to find a way to keep track of my blood sugar levels without being confined to the little logbooks they give you at the doctor's office. (Those things are too tiny to keep track of anything!)

    Although I have tried many different ways of keeping track of my food intake, I find the easiest way is to carry a little notebook around with you. I tried having my own food diary blog and I have even tried applications for my smartphone, but sticking with those tech-savvy alternatives became too cumbersome after a while.

    The nice thing about having a notebook is that you can jot just about anything down, and it doesn't have to be perfect because it's for you and no one else to see (unlike blogs or smartphone apps). Also those who prefer the journal method can even write how they're feeling that day. My favorite part about having a notebook on hand is that I can cut out motivational clippings, workouts, or even recipes and tape them to the inside of the book. This way, when I open my notebook, I can see those reminders.

    If you want to try the traditional notebook approach, I recommend any of the Moleskine journals. I'm currently using a reporter-style book to log my entries (pictures below), and although I think it's too big to carry around with me everywhere, it gets the job done. In true reality though, any journal will work!

    Some traditional journal recommendations are (click the images for more) ...

    If you prefer the more tech-savvy route, we recommend the following smartphone applications:

    • MyFitnessPal - This application is extremely convenient because of the barcode scanner! Scan any packaged food and it'll find the nutritional value of it. Having this tool makes eating a lot easier to log food! You can even track how much water you drink per day, which is helpful if you're trying to consume more H20.


    • Lose It! - This application has icons for food, helping make visual connections to what your eating. Lose It! also has integration to devices such as FitBit and wireless scales to help track your calories and weight.

    Happy logging!
    - Emily

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Where's the Weekend Wednesday: Zero-Waste Living

    With everyone trying to achieve an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, you may have heard of zero-waste living before, but what does it mean? And why does zero-waste living bring up the concern of: why isn't recycling good enough anymore?

    Zero-waste living is a lifestyle where you perpetually reuse everything you own. Ultimately it eliminates waste, thus contributing to the concept of "zero-waste." For example, when you shop at the market you provide your own packaging (e.g., cloth bags or mason jars) rather than choosing to purchase product with excessive and non-reusable packaging.

    A video I came across from the Today Show highlights the Johnson family. The California family of Béa and Scott Johnson, along with their two boys, live a zero-waste lifestyle as normally as possible. They have cars, shop at Whole Foods, and use toilet paper just like you and me.

    As described in the video, the family has eliminated a lot of waste, but also financial waste as well. According to Scott Johnson, he states he saw a 25% drop in the family's expenses since they began the zero-waste lifestyle. And when you really think about it, the way the Johnsons are living is the way humans used to live before the dawn of cardboard boxes, plastic jugs, and aluminum cans. We relied heavily on cloth bags and reusable objects, simply because we could not afford to discard something.

    If you analyze what the Johnsons are doing a little further, you may just realize that the simple idea of taking glass jars to the grocer to store meats is a brilliant idea for a myriad of reasons:
    • There's no non-biodegradable styrofoam packaging to deal with.
    • Without the stryofoam you heavily eliminate the risk of common food borne illnesses, such as E. coli poisoning.
    • Glass is much easier to sanitize, which is healthier than having a meat-juice-laden stryofoam package sit in your kitchen trash can.

    So, not only is the zero-waste lifestyle better for the environment, but better for you. Béa Johnson even states that she feels "... so much better, so much happier ... " in the video featured on her blog, The Zero Waste Home
    (direct link to the video).

    An easy way to think about zero-waste living is best described by Béa, where she says on her blog to get " ... your 4Rs right. Refuse-Reduce-Reuse… Recycle only as a last resort."

    Why is recycling listed as a last resort?

    Because a product designed to simply be discarded and recreated into its original form is an arduous process. What makes it even more difficult is companies have to find a way to reuse those bare materials. Instead it's much easier to simply bring a washable cloth bag or glass jar to the grocer to store your goods.

    Perhaps the zero-waste lifestyle seems unachievable to a lot of people, but starting in small steps can make a huge difference (it took the Johnson family five years to get to where they are now). You can start by using cloth bags at the grocer rather than plastic, or even opt out for paper. Just because you want to make a difference doesn't mean you have to live to the standard of the Johnsons'. Just live to your own, because in the end it'll make a much bigger difference to the future of our planet.

    On the other hand, if you do want to begin a zero-waste lifestyle in your home, please read Béa's blog to see her tips and articles. She even has a list of recommended products to use in the home.

    - Emily