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Giveaway: Aloha Superfood Dark Chocolate

Win a six pack of Aloha superfood chocolate!Yay, it’s the weekend! I’m excited to spend some time curled up on the couch with a good book and some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately I can’t give away a plate of cookies here on the blog—I’m pretty sure they’d be fuzzy before they made it through the post to the winner!—but I’m giving away something else delicious instead: a bundle of Aloha Superfood Dark Chocolate bars.

If there’s a way to make these bars better for you, I’m not sure what it is: they’re vegan, kosher, USA-made, non-GMO, free of soy and gluten, and made with fair trade ingredients. They’re loaded with superfoods like wheatgrass and moringa for a nutritional boost. Oh, and they’re pretty tasty, too!

One reader will win a six-pack of original dark bars; you can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Impatient? Head over to the Aloha website and order your own six-pack in original dark, hazelnut & fig, macadamia & coconut, tropical twist, or cereal crunch. You can use the code “MARTHA37” to get $20 off your first order!

The giveaway is open internationally and will close next Sunday. Good luck!

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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, BlockIslandOrganics.com. (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: PureSol Konjac Sponge

(Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial. )
This konjac sponge is my new HG beauty buy!

The product: PureSol Konjac Facial Sponge with added Bamboo Charcoal; retails for $24.95 at Amazon.com (buy it here). Currently on sale for $10. Check out the company’s Facebook page here.

The claim: Cleanses, exfoliates and brightens skin. Because it’s so gentle, it’s perfect for even very sensitive or irritated skin. Can be used solo or with your favorite cleanser.

Ingredients: Made of vegetable fiber and lacking any processed ingredients or additives (fragrances, colorants, etc.), this is a 100% green and vegan product. When you’re done with it, it can be composted or even simply tossed in a flower pot rather than going in the garbage.

This konjac sponge is my new HG beauty buy!

 

I tried it: Every once in a while I come across a new product that truly earns the “holy grail” status in my beauty stash. I didn’t know what was so special about this sponge until I ordered it; within a week it shot to HG status and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The picture above shows the sponge when dry; after about ten minutes soaking in a bowl of water, it expands by about 50% and becomes super-soft. There’s a little string so you can hang it up to dry in between uses (a suction cup hook is included in the package). The sponge can be easily sterilized every couple of weeks by popping it in the microwave or in some boiling water. When you’re done with the sponge (the company says each one lasts about two to three months), throw it in the compost pile or even in a flower pot–no waste left over for the trash!  I also love that it’s 100% chemical-free and has no scent.

This sponge exfoliates in the most oh-so-gentle way imaginable, making it excellent for anyone with hypersensitive skin or a condition like rosacea that can be irritated by exfoliating facial scrubs. You almost can’t tell that it’s exfoliating–it’s that gentle–but you can definitely see and feel the difference once you’re done. It’s much gentler than using a washcloth. I love using this with a basic foaming cleanser in the mornings–it’s a great way to get that “glow” without irritating my skin with a scrub (and you shouldn’t be using those scrubs every day anyway, as we all know!).

I’ve been using this every day for about a week or so now and my skin is positively glowing. The irritated red patches around my nose and jaw where over-exfoliation was irking my skin have disappeared. My pores look smaller, most noticeably in my T-zone, where it’s always been a battle between blackheads and over-exfoliation. My skin feels super-soft, too.

Adding this unassuming little sponge to my daily skin care routine has done more for my skin than any other product I’ve tried since Christine got me hooked on the Seventh Generation Boost serums last winter. I can now safely say this is one of those rare skin care products I’m not willing to live without!

My final review: 10/10. This is truly the best new facial product I’ve tried in a long time, and I would recommend it to anyone. Will definitely be repurchasing when I’m done with this one!

(Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.)

Ethical/vegan/USA fashion picks: March 2014

I thought it would be fun to start doing a regular feature of ethically sourced, charitable, vegan and/or made in the USA fashion picks. I don’t know if I’ll do this on a monthly basis or just as the mood strikes me. For now, here are some spring picks for you, all under $100.

1. Folk Like Us cotton crinkle maxi skirt; $54 (converted from pounds) from Fashion Conscience. Fair trade.
2. Crowned Earrings; $28 from Roozt. Designer Glit-Z donates a portion of proceeds to charities benefiting autism awareness and child abuse prevention.
3. Hopeful of Life tank; $27.99 from ModCloth. Made in the USA.
4. On Deck sneaker in pink; $60 from Pure Citizen. Vegan, fair trade, recycled and eco-conscious.
5. Chinese Laundry Vegan Milk Shake Tribal Wedge; $80 (converted from pounds) from Fashion Conscience. Vegan-friendly synthetic design.
6. Ellie Bouquet Dress; $80 (converted from pounds) from People Tree. Organic and fair trade cotton.
7. Everyday Hobo; $32 from One Mango Tree. Locally sourced and stitched by Ugandan artisans.
8. Heads or Tailwinds top; $37.99 from ModCloth. Made in the USA.

(Links are provided for ease of shopping only; they are not affiliate links.)
 
 

Unboxing: Conscious Box December 2013

My Conscious Box arrived a little late because of the holidays, so I’m just now posting the contents. I honestly had really mixed feelings about this month; there were lots of items included, but some were repeats, some were just not that interesting, and a couple were just “nopes” for me. If you’re interested in Conscious Box, it’s a monthly subscription box that brings you samples of natural health, food, beauty and lifestyle products for $19.95; choose from a classic, vegan, or gluten-free subscription. There are no preview or skip windows with this subscription. You can cancel anytime. When you rate the products received in your box, you earn points to spend in the Conscious store. Learn more at their website.

Right away, I have two repeats from last month: the African Black soap and the three-pack of Mighty Leaf loose leaf teas. I have no complaints about getting soap and tea in boxes, but I don’t think you should send someone a carbon copy of an item two months in a row. It’s bad for business and irks paying customers who want to try new things.

This Floating Soap, in a brown sugar and sweet potato scent, sounds interesting. I actually tuck most of my soaps in my dresser drawers to scent my clothes, but I might try this in the bath to see what it’s like.

They really went bonkers with the soap samples this month. I’m just sayin’. This seaweed soap from Earth’s Enrichments sounds really nice, though.

The Truly You amber candle is a welcome addition to the box; I love candles. I don’t get into the whole thing about burning to purify chakras and whatnot, but it smells good.

The idea behind this Blue Avocado java sleeve is that you’ll use it instead of the cardboard sleeve that comes on your takeout coffee cup, thereby cutting down on waste. You know what else cuts down on waste? Brewing your own coffee at home and toting it in a washable reusable cup instead of hitting the drive-thru. I know, that’s snotty, but I just don’t see myself using this, ever. Maybe if your lifestyle called for lots of take-out coffee because you were on the go and couldn’t brew at home…then it would be handy. But knowing me, I’d forget to stash it in my purse anyway.

These three samples are okay, but disappointing. (Left to right: Mountain Green laundry detergent, Natural Homelogic dish soap, BumBoosa baby wipe.) I just don’t get all “woohoo” about samples of cleaning products.

Finally! A cosmetic item! This mini bottle of Piggy Paint doesn’t have a color listed on the bottom, but it’s a pretty shade. These polishes are all non-toxic and safe for pregnant ladies or small children.

I’m always up for more protein shake samples. It’s hard to find ones that taste good. This veggie protein pack from APS is in a berry flavor, which should be interesting (I normally buy vanilla or chocolate).

I didn’t like these roasted chickpeas (The Good Bean). To be honest I’m not a big “nut” person anyway, so maybe if you were, you’d like them more…they’re certainly a great alternative to roasted peanuts. Just not my taste.

I really liked this Two Degrees bar, I just didn’t like getting bits of quinoa stuck in my teeth. Kind of problematic, since I usually eat this type of bar on the go or whilst running from one office to another at work, and I really felt the need to floss as soon as I’d finished eating it!

I wasn’t sure about this Numi tea. Beet cabbage? For reals? But it was good, light and slightly spicy–a nice savory tea to go with a meal, as opposed to a sweet dessert tea. I would repurchase this in the future, once I’ve worked through my Christmas stash of tea!

The MegaFood vegan vitamins are a good sample for me, since I’m thinking of getting a multivitamin to add to my diet for the new year. You don’t realize until you go vegan that there are sources of dairy and other animal products lurking everywhere, even in vitamins!

(Slight pause) This Florax DS is, in my opinion, just a weird sample to include.

Extras. A BioBag, for picking up pet waste, and some coupons. There were also coupons included on a couple of products in the box, like the soap and the Numi tea.

Here’s a rundown of everything I got and the approximate item/total box value:

African Black soap: $0.79
Mighty Leaf tea: $1.50
Floating Soap: $1.00 (?)
Seaweed soap: $1.00 (?)
Tea light: $3.00
Java sleeve: $3.00
Laundry detergent: $0.40
Dish soap: $0.10
Baby wipe: $0.10
Piggy Paint: $4.00 (?)
Veggie protein: $2.00
The Good Bean: $2.00 (?)
Two Degrees bar: $2.00
Numi tea: $0.60
MegaFood supplement: $0.80
Florax: $14.27
BioBag/coupons: N/A
Total: $36.56

Overall I liked quite a few of the items–the teas and soaps, candle, nail polish and snack bar–and I would say out of seventeen items, ten were good, five were okay but not for me, and two were just “bleh”. I feel like the inclusion of the Florax DS bumped up the box value and that’s why they felt okay putting in the super-cheapie samples of dish soap and the BioBag, as opposed to other food, beauty or lifestyle samples.

Once again I did find some new items to try out that I would not have purchased off the store shelf at full retail price, but the total value of those items doesn’t exceed the box price, especially if you don’t count the two repeat items. That could be a deal breaker for some people. I do still feel like the box offers a nice mix of items for someone who’s new to vegan and/or green living and needs a place to start before they start buying full-sized items, but I would like to see them improve the “lifestyle” items and start offering more beauty items that are not bar soap.

In any case, while this box had a mixed value for me, I already knew before it arrived that I would be canceling most of my existing subscription boxes on the first of this month as part of my 2014 goal to reduce my unnecessary spending. While these boxes are certainly fun, they’re not a necessity and I know I could put that $20 each month toward something else, so is the last one I’ll be unpacking for some time.

Do you subscribe to any monthly boxes? Any favorites? Any you’re quitting this year, or picking up brand-new? Tell me in the comments!