body products

Product review: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

(Disclosure: I was sent a sample product for testing purposes; however I was not compensated to write a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Can you guys believe it’s July already?! We’ve had nothing but sun lately and temps near 100, and it’s been intense–even driving in the car you’re liable to get a sunburn if you don’t slather on SPF first. Kelly from Block Island Organics got in touch recently to see if I’d like to review some of their new mineral sunscreen and of course I jumped at the chance to try it out–here’s what I thought after a long, bright weekend!

Check out my review of the Block Island Organics natural mineral sunscreen! It's SPF 30 and free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, and other nasty ingredients. Plus it's vegan and goes on super-sheer, so you won't feel greasy by midday!

The product: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30; $19.99/3.4-oz. through the company website, (Currently on sale for $16.99!)

What it does: A lightweight, fast-absorbing sunscreen free of nanoparticles, gluten, animal ingredients, artificial fragrances and dye, parabens, phthalates, sulfates and petrochemicals. (Whew, what a mouthful!) Suitable for face and body. Block Island Organics is family-owned, USA-produced, and committed to producing simple, effective, affordable formulas without the harmful ingredients found in traditional skincare products.

I tried it: Hands-down, my biggest pet peeve with sunscreen is that it feels and smells like, well, sunscreen. You know: greasy and chemical-laden, and not at all pleasant. You can’t exactly forget you’re wearing it. Luckily, sunscreens have come a long way in recent years and now we have products like this one, which are so light you might mistake them for regular moisturizer. In fact, I would say this is one of the nicest sunscreens I’ve tried recently in terms of weight, texture and scent. The formula is super-thin, so it absorbs quickly and without that infamous white cast left behind by some zinc sunscreens. My skin felt dry to the touch afterward. The scent is nearly undetectable, too, and the dye-free/fragrance-free formula didn’t irritate my sensitive skin.

I also have to say that I really, really love being able to tote one bottle in my bag for face and body alike! I’ve found some sunscreens that were fine for my body, but couldn’t be used on my face because they stung my eyes, turned my skin slick or made me break out. Not so with this sunscreen! You could easily layer this with makeup if desired; I used it over my regular facial moisturizer.

This sunscreen isn’t waterproof, so you’ll need to reapply after swimming or if you’re sweating heavily, but since you’re supposed to be reapplying your sunscreen frequently anyway, I don’t feel like this is a big deal. It’s so light, and a little goes a really long way–no need to goop it on–so it doesn’t feel like you’re suffocating your skin.

Overall I love this sunscreen; it takes all the “yuck” out of daily wear, so I can stay protected from the sun without feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Block Island Organics has generously offered readers a 15% sitewide discount, so you can try out their products for yourself! Just use the coupon code “Martha” at checkout, now through July 7th!

Check out Block Island Organics on social media: Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter

Ingredients: Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 22%. Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera Gel) Juice*, Aqua (Deionized Water), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Oil, Gluconolactone, Glycerin*, Lecithin*, Octyl Palmitate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Zemea Propanediol. (*Certified Organic)  

Product review: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream

I’ve struggled with dry hands all winter and have tried a few different hand creams, without finding one I really love. Now that spring is here my skin isn’t quite so dry, but I still need something, so I picked up this fresh-smelling hand cream from my local natural foods store.

Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream review from I'd Rather Be Reading blog

What it is: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream; $8.95/3.4 ounces. An organic, vegan and gluten-free hand cream designed to nourish dry hands and cuticles.

What it does: It’s a fairly thick cream that absorbs quickly and smells strongly of lavender, without that baby powder tendency found in some lavender-scented products. It’s less sweet and more earthy, which I like.  I do feel like the scent fades quickly.

I like how this feels on my skin, but it’s still not quite thick enough for the winter months. You still have to reapply every couple of hours or after washing your hands, and I’ll be shopping for something a bit thicker for the colder, drier winter months. That said, I feel like this will be a good hand cream for the spring-to-fall period, when I want something with a medium thickness and a clean scent. I also really love that the profits from this hand cream support projects to benefit women’s education–I feel that it’s important for companies to find ways to give back to society, and human rights and education are important to me.

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Juice (organic), Aqua, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil (organic), Stearic Acid, Prunus Amygdalus (Sweet Almond) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (organic), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter (organic), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Butter, Vegetable Glycerin, Calophyllum Inophyllum (tamanu) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Malus Domestica (apple), Solar Vitis (grape), Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) (Fruit Stem Cell Cultures and BioActive 8 Berry Complex. Organic), Allantoin, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract (organic), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil (organic), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Oil, Xanthan Gum, ethylhexyl glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Oil (organic).

Product review: Steamcream

Disclosure: I was sent a product in exchange for a review. However I was not compensated for writing a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.

Hey beauties! Are you enjoying your winter? We got several inches of snow here yesterday and I’m loving it. If there’s one thing I don’t enjoy about winter, though, it’s the fact that colder temps and drier air turn my skin super-dry and sensitive, and my regular body and face lotions just don’t cut it anymore.

Hence, I was pretty excited when Katie from Steamcream contacted me to ask if I’d like to try a tin of their all-in-one moisturizer, suitable for use on face, body, hands and feet ($20/75ml). After a couple of weeks of testing, I’m finally ready to share my thoughts with you! Steamcream is vegan and natural and contains ingredients like almond oil to soothe and moisturize without piling on heavy synthetics that can actually do more harm than good. You can learn more about Steamcream’s ingredients and sourcing here

The Steamcream formula comes packaged in your choice of a variety of different beautiful tins. I opted for Thalia, with a pretty orange and white floral design, but if you browse their design gallery you’ll see they have nearly two hundred tins to choose from, meaning there’s something there for everyone! The metal tin is very sturdy but small enough to fit in your hand.

Steamcream has what I would describe as an earthy fragrance, due to the combination of almond oil, lavender, chamomile and neroli. It’s not terribly strong and doesn’t linger long, but if you prefer preppy or uber-fresh scents to what I like to call “hippie” scents, you might be disappointed with the fragrance. Just an FYI. Personally I love natural scents, but I’ve also gotten the side eye for saying I like patchouli, so to each their own. I like that the scent fades away quickly so you can add your own perfume or body spray without creating a competing mix of fragrances.

Surprisingly, the formula is very thin–I expected it to have the consistency of a body butter, but it’s thinner than even a facial lotion. Obviously if you’re used to piling on heavy moisturizers in the winter, such a thin consistency seems odd; it’s hard to imagine how Steamcream can moisturize so heavily when it feels like there’s nothing on your skin. However, when I tested out the cream on one side of my face and body versus a thicker face cream and body butter, I found that there was no noticeable difference in moisturization even after several hours. At the twelve-hour mark, the side with Steamcream actually felt like it was retaining moisture better without reapplication–no dry or itchy patches!

The really lovely thing about Steamcream is that it’s truly an all-in-one product: it moisturizes my dry legs and hands like a much thicker product, but it’s still lightweight enough to use on my face without triggering a breakout. Also, since it’s so light and non-greasy, it’s very good for layering under makeup. I think it would be great for someone who didn’t like using very thick products, or for someone who wanted to layer products without feeling that they were slathering a layer of buttercream frosting over their limbs.

If you’re looking for a new cream to add to your winter skincare routine I highly recommend heading over to the Steamcream website and browsing their tins–it’s a great way to treat yourself this holiday season!

Full ingredients: Oatmeal infusion, orange flower water, almond oil, cocoa butter, glycerine, stearic acid, triethanolamine, organic jojoba oil, lavender oil, chamomile blue oil, orange flower absolute, rose absolute, neroli oil, cetearyl alcohol, coumarin*, geraniol*, citronellol*, limonene*, linalool*, perfume, methylparaben, propylparaben. (*Occurs naturally in essential oils)

Disclosure: I was sent a product in exchange for a review. However I was not compensated for writing a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.

Product review: Perlier Volcanic Thermal Scrub

Disclosure: I received this product courtesy of iFabbo and Perlier for testing purposes. However I was note compensated for writing this review and as always all opinions are my own.

Product: Perlier Volcanic Thermal Scrub, $25 for 6.7 ounces. This product is sold through HSN (here).


Ingredient notes: This product appears to be animal-friendly at a glance; however, note that the imidazolidinyl urea can be animal-derived, and it isn’t clear whether this particular product uses an animal-sourced or synthetic version. Also, ingredients like fragrance, linalool and dye can be irritating to the skin.  

I tried it: Or perhaps more accurately, I wanted to try it. I love scrubs and while I had some reservations about the strange, thick blue goo in the jar, I was really hoping for a good exfoliating experience. The suspension of this product is really weird–it’s like hair gel with pumice bits inside, if that makes sense. The gritty bits are of varying sizes and are supposed to provide a superior smoothing experience while also working with the thermal water to renew the skin.

But my testing attempts were firmly squashed by how harsh this scrub felt on my skin. To be fair, my skin tends to be sensitive and picky about what it will and won’t tolerate, but this felt way too harsh for my body. The scrub promises to leave skin “soft and velvety”, but I just stepped out of the shower feeling like I’d taken a sheet of sandpaper to my body. Way, way too harsh.

The other problem was that this scrub really irritated my skin. After I tried to use it, I ended up red and itchy, either from over-dryness or an irritating ingredient in the scrub.

I also have to mention that I have no way of knowing whether Perlier used synthetic alternatives to animal-derived ingredients in their products (they do say that they don’t test their products on animals). As I’ve mentioned off and on in my blog posts, this is my year of transitioning from a vegetarian to a vegan life, so I’m slowly weeding out beauty products that contain animal ingredients like beeswax, lanolin, etc. Since I can’t be 100% certain that this product is vegan-friendly, it isn’t something I would feel comfortable purchasing for myself in the future.

My final thoughts: I was so excited to test this, but what a letdown! I have heard from other bloggers that they loved it, so maybe it was just me? In any case, I sadly can’t recommend it.

Disclosure: I received this product courtesy of iFabbo and Perlier for testing purposes. However I was note compensated for writing this review and as always all opinions are my own.


Product review: Jason Pure Natural Body Wash in Soothing Aloe Vera

Here’s a belated review from the archives of a product that actually got used up some time ago. I picked this up for my hubby when I decided to start transitioning his products over to cruelty-free options and then somehow just never got around to posting a review for you guys, so here it is!

The product: Jason Pure Natural Body Wash; $13.79 for 30 ounces; in ten scents. I picked up Soothing Aloe Vera.

The claim: “This gentle wash cleanses with natural botanical surfactants and safely nourishes with Vitamin E and Pro-Vitamin B5. Our natural blend of soothing Aloe Vera and Sunflower Seed Oil provides lipid relief to smooth and hydrate your skin.” (From their website)

I tried it: While the price seems high for this body wash, that’s one huge bottle. If you do the math per ounce, this bottle is cheaper than just about any other natural body wash on the shelves, and it’s actually even cheaper than some of the mainstream “natural” body washes from brands like Aveeno. With ten scents to choose from, there’s something there for every taste. I settled on Soothing Aloe Vera because I was buying this primarily for the hubby and this looked like the most unoffensively unisex scent on the shelf.

If you’re trying to go natural on a budget and need a big bottle of body wash for the whole family to use (or just like to buy in bulk), this is definitely a good choice. The scent is very mild and almost unnoticeable, depending on your sensitivity to scents. Hubby appreciated that it didn’t smell like flowers and I liked having something clean and fresh for a break from my usual scented body washes.

If you’ve never used a sulfate-free body wash, you need to know that they don’t lather like traditional body washes. You’ll get a little bit of suds, but not much. It takes some getting used to at first but it isn’t a bad change. This body wash rinses clean and doesn’t leave skin feeling dry or tight.

Jason products are vegetarian-friendly and Leaping Bunny-certified. This body wash is free of parabens, sulfates and phthalates. I actually found this at my local Target store, which made me pretty happy since Target often posts sales on their natural products that let you buy in bulk and get a gift card in return, saving you even more money in the process.

My verdict: One of the best body wash buys on the shelf. Hubby is happy with this scent but I’m thinking for myself I might look at some of the girlier scents available, like lavender or rose, once I’m done with  my current rotation of body washes.

Indie organic brand to try: Sunny Girl Organics

Love organic skin care? Love indie brands? Then you should check out Sunny Girl Organics! Reader Sheena Mariee gave me the heads-up about this little skincare brand, based out of New York and selling a variety of organic and vegetarian goods like body wash, lotion, and lip balm.

Sunny Girl has a great deal available that lets you try three product samples for the very low price of $2.95, with no additional fee for shipping! You get to choose your own samples, so I decided to try a body wash, lotion, and scrub.

My order arrived pretty quickly. I’m not sure why, but a fourth item was included in my order: a lemongrass spray mist, made of essential lemongrass oil. I don’t know if this was a special bonus or what. I’m guessing this is a mini of the lemongrass spray mist that’s sold as a natural insect repellant; it’s made of distilled water and lemongrass oil, and the 8-oz. bottle retails for $9.99.  This product is vegan!
You can see that my Lemongrass Body Wash sample is in fact not a sample, but a deluxe or travel size sample–two ounces!! This is also lemongrass scented; a 16-oz. bottle sells for $13.99.

As you can see from the ingredients label on the back, the body wash is all-natural and vegan! If you don’t know what lemongrass smells like, be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart. I can smell it without opening the bottle. Some people compare it to citronella, which I suppose is true, but I think this is more pleasant than a mosquito candle. It is however very strong, so I would definitely suggest sampling it before going full-size, especially if you don’t typically like strong scents.

Finally I sampled their Lemon Lavender Hand & Body Scrub ($10.99/six ounces) and their Lavender Body Lotion ($9.99/eight ounces). Both of these arrived in tiny pots and are strong-smelling as well, though in the best, most natural way possible. Both are vegan.

In fact, as far as I can tell, all of the products offered by Sunny Girl are vegetarian, and all of them are vegan except for their lip balms (containing beeswax) and their Anti-Wrinkle Creme (containing honey). The icing on the cake: all of these products are affordable! Finding a company that’s vegetarian/vegan, organic, and affordable can be difficult, so I’m pretty happy to add Sunny Girl to my shopping list!

If you want to try Sunny Girl for yourself, click here to go to their e-commerce site or click here to order your own sample kit!

Product review: Bath and Body Works Cashmere Glow shower gel and body lotion

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m in love with Bath and Body Works. I think their products are to die for and I’m always super-excited when they come out with a new scent for a new season. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into my review of their latest fall fragrance, Cashmere Glow!

Product: Bath and Body Works Cashmere Glow shower gel ($11/10 oz.) and body lotion ($11/8 oz.)

Claim: “Every girl deserves cashmere!…an enticing blend of shimmering vanilla and golden peach wrapped in soft cashmere musk.”

I tried it: First, the shower gel. A little goes a long way with BBW shower gels and when you pour this on a shower pouf, you get a really luscious lather. The Shea-enriched formula won’t dry out your skin and in fact I feel like this leaves my skin softer.

The fragrance is present but not overly strong in the shower, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could still smell the fragrance on my skin after toweling off. Normally I find that scented body washes/shower gels smell great while you’re using them, but don’t linger on once you’ve stepped out of the shower, so this is a major plus in my book.

Next, the lotion. BBW lotions are super-silky and hydrating and an absolute joy to use. I sometimes have trouble with fragranced products irritating my skin, but I’ve never had an issue with BBW. Ingredients like vitamin E, jojoba, and shea butter make this a great pick for dry winter skin, but the formula never feels heavy.

Layering this lotion with the shower gel really made the scent last for a long time. It’s a warm blend of vanilla, peaches, and cashmere musk, which makes for a very cuddly fragrance; this smells like something you’d wear while snuggling under a blanket with hot tea and a good book. It reminds me of sweaters, fall, and all things cozy. If I were to put this in a scent “family” I’d say it leans toward being a sexy scent, since the musk gives it a rather sensual undertone; but it isn’t so overly sexy that you would only wear it on a date night.

The thing that I really love about this scent is that it isn’t so strong that it knocks you over when you open the bottle. If you typically love fruity notes for spring/summer and want something a little deeper for fall and winter, this is a good pick that doesn’t smell too heavy. And if you love musks but want something just a teensy bit lighter, then this is a great pick as well.

My vote: A winner! My list of Holy Grail BBW products just got a bit longer with the addition of this scent.

I love this scent so much, I’m giving away a shower gel and body lotion as my 100 followers Twitter giveaway. I’m drawing a winner on October 15, so hurry and enter here!

[CLOSED] Twitter giveaway contest! Bath and Body Works Cashmere Glow shower gel and body lotion

I’ve reached the 100 follower mark on Twitter! I know to any of you who have hundreds (or, gasp, thousands!) of followers, that might seem like a small number. But it’s a big number to me, and to thank everyone for following along, I decided to host a small giveaway contest.

I’m going to give one lucky winner a full-size Bath and Body Works shower gel and body lotion in their newest fall fragrance, Cashmere Glow.  The contest ends on October 14, so you have a little less than a week to enter.

Entering is simple: you don’t have to follow me (though I’d love it if you did!). Just head over to my Twitter page to find all of the giveaway details and the full contest rules, then re-tweet the contest announcement and tweet me your best idea for creating a new fall fragrance. I want to know: what would inspire it, what would you call it, and what would it smell like?

The contest is open to international readers 18 and older; you just need a valid Twitter account to enter. Please remember that you must RT and tweet me your fragrance idea to enter. RTing alone or tweeting alone are not considered valid entries.

Good luck!