Holy Grail beauty products

How to choose the best shampoo method for your hair type

How to choose the best shampoo method for your hair type: what you need to know about dry shampoo, cleansing conditioner, and more!

There are so many options for cleansing your hair these days—shampoo! Dry shampoo! Cleansing conditioner!—that it’s kind of hard to know what product to buy. Then there are the constant updates on sites like Pinterest about famous celebrities’ favorite hair-care routines or bloggers ditching shampoo entirely. Put it all together and the process of figuring out the best shampoo method for your hair can seem pretty daunting!

The truth is, there’s no one best way to wash your hair. There are so many factors to consider, from hair length to scalp type to whether you color and even how often you work out. If you read popular magazines or blogs about hair care you’ll find lots of great tips on how to mix and match products for your specific hair type, and you’ll probably want to do some experimenting to find what works best for you. This post isn’t going to be a comprehensive rundown of twenty different situations simply because, to be honest, I can’t speak from experience for a lot of different hair types. For example, I have never used peroxide bleach and I don’t have ethnic hair, so I can’t give the most detailed advice for those ladies!

What I do want to cover in this post is some general guidance on choosing the best shampoo method for your hair, and talk about the routine I’ve settled on for my own hair after years and years of experimenting. Believe it or not, you can use the wrong shampoo and conditioner or use the right ones in the wrong way, and it will make a huge difference in the look and feel of your hair. I’m going to break down four different types of shampoos and conditioners, how to use them for best results, and what you should consider for your hair type and daily routine. Then I’ll talk about my current routine and the best shampoo method for my hair! (more…)

Random Thursday: Holy Grail Cosmetics

 
I think it’s safe to say that most of us beauty bloggers could probably go on and on about their favorite products. I mean, c’mon: we test and blog about makeup as a living/major hobby/obsession. It’s hard not to get violently attached to certain products!
With that in mind, let’s get into a few of my faves. I tried to keep the list short! Let’s start with…
…my current Holy Grail face products. 

1. NYX Shine Killer primer. Keeps my skin satiny instead of slick for hours on end, but doesn’t clog my pores.
2. Physicians Formula Super BB powder. This stuff is akin to a powder foundation without looking cakey and offers buildable coverage without irritating my sensitive skin or making me break out. I like to use it with a sponge or powder puff instead of the included brush.
3. Wet n Wild Idol Eyes shadow stick in Champagne. It’s meant for use as a shadow or liner (duh!) but I use it to brighten the inner corners of my eyes, highlight my cheek and brow bones, and define my cupid’s bow, making it a true multitasker for about $2. Can’t beat that! When I’m really tired I use it to cover my dark circles before topping with a dusting of powder and some undereye concealer.
4. Physicians Formula Super BB liquid concealer. It can be layered under my eyes without looking like spackle and covers my blemishes without breaking me out. I don’t think I’ve truly yet found the mother of all undereye circle-covering concealers, but this is a pretty good one for now.
5. Wet n Wild ColorIcon bronzer. Not sparkly (when was the last time you saw a sparkly tan?) and very buildable. Won’t clog my pores. Super cheap, too, and the pan is huge, so you know it’s going to last for-ev-er!
6. Flower Beauty creme blush in Peach Blossom. The perfect flattering coral for my skin tone, so I look glowy and not red (I have too much pink in my cheeks as is). 
…my current Holy Grail eye products.

1. Lash curler. This is non-neogtiable, even on days I don’t wear eye makeup! Just curling my lashes opens up my eyes and makes them look larger and so much prettier.
2. Physicians Formula Nude eyeshadow palette. I can create an eye look for any occasion with this palette, from subtle daytime eyes to a hot smoky look, thanks to nine shadows ranging from cream and pale pink to taupe, chocolate and black.
3. Urban Decay 24/7 pencil in Zero/Whiskey. Soooooo creamy and tug-free! I like to use the black on my upper lash line and brown along the lower lash line.
4. Physicians Formula Organic Wear Fake Out mascara. Gives me long, fluttery, clump-free lashes and doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes.

…Holy Grail products for lips.

1. Wet n Wild Fergie Centerstage Collection lipstick in Fergie Daily. This is great for creating nude ’60s-style lips without looking, well dead.
2. Urban Decay lipstick in Gash. Sadly discontinued, this is the perfect deep blue-based red.
3. Flower Beauty Kiss Stick High Shine lip color in Coral Floret. I have a lot of trouble with pink lipstick thanks to a mix of what I believe are olive and yellowish undertones in my skin. This bright coral is flattering and pretty for spring.
4. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm in Naked. Free of chemicals, flavors, dye or scents, this is perfect for wearing alone to heal chapped lips or as a moisturizing base before applying lipstick. It’s not slippery and it keeps my lips feeling soft for hours.

…a few random Holy Grail products.

1. Julep Freedom Polymer top coat. It gives nails the hard finish and super shine of a gel manicure without the damage or drying time.
2. Nail Aid Ultra Fast Growth base coat. I refuse to use anything else; this stuff really does make my nails stronger and they are growing faster than ever. Plus, it’s toxin-free and costs less than $5 at Walmart.
3. A big fluffy brush. This is an old one from Jane, which I plan to replace with an Ecotools brush when it wears out. I don’t think there’s a product in my stash, powder or liquid, that I haven’t applied with this type of brush; it’s so versatile and there’s no reason now to keep at least two nice, soft, fluffy ones on hand.
4. Small shadow brush. Sponge applicators are okay sometimes, but I really prefer brushes, and you can buy a whole handful for a buck apiece from ELF, so you’ve always got a clean one within reach for your shadow. You can also use these little brushes to spot apply both liquid and dry foundations when you’re trying to cover a blemish.
5. Angled powder brush. Please buy yourself one for applying blush and bronzer; it makes such a difference, I promise! I use mine with cream and powder products alike.
6. Lash comb/brow groomer. Like the lash curler, this is non-negotiable; groomed brows make you look instantly more polished and the brush is also perfect for blending in brow waxes or powders for a more natural brow look. Plus, the lash comb is a lifesaver if you get a clump.

…Holy Grail nail polishes.

Did you really think I’d let you leave without a peek at my polish stash? I tried to cull the list to a dozen of my favorites, with a good mix of neutrals, brights, vampy shades and edgy picks. My favorite brand is Zoya, but as you can see I also love Butter London, Flower Beauty, Julep, Milani, and Wet n Wild. I try to stick to cheaper brands for basic colors–for example, I grab my black and white polishes for nail art from Wet n Wild for a buck apiece. That way I can splurge on more expensive brands for those one-of-a-kind colors that you just don’t find at the drugstore.

1. Julep “Sienna”
2. Flower Beauty “Gorgeous Gerbera”
3. Zoya “Dove”
4. Zoya “Evvie”
5. Wet n Wild “Sunny Side Up”
6. Julep “Lauren”
7. Milani “Bet on Red”
8. Julep “Trina”
9. Zoya “Marley”
10. Flower Beauty “Thistle or That?”
11. Butter London “Wallis”
12. Julep “Sasha”


What are your Holy Grail cosmetics? Any I should try? Leave a comment and let me know!

Product review: Alba Botanica Natural Acne Dote Face & Body Scrub

Today I’m continuing my three-part series of reviews on a trio of Alba Botanica acne products I used up this month. Yesterday I reviewed the regular wash, today I’ll show you the scrub, and tomorrow I’ll be posting a review on the treatment gel.

The product: Alba Botanica Natural Acne Dote Face & Body Scrub; $10

The claim: 2% salycylic acid derived from willow bark deep cleans pores. 80% of users saw clearer skin throughout the day. (From their website)

I tried it: I don’t know what I expected this stuff to look like, but I didn’t expect a slightly runny chocolate brown scrub! After my initial alarm (hey, it was early and I was tired!) I realized that this was probably caused by the ground-up walnut shells (which provide exfoliation) and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of an actual lathering cleanser. I’m used to thick, scratchy scrubs that exfoliate just fine but don’t feel like an actual cleanser. This is almost like a hybrid cleanser-scrub with very low lather and fine exfoliation.

I’ve used this product both solo and as a follow-up to the Acne Dote pore wash, and it works great either way. On the days I’m feeling super gunky and it seems like the pore wash just wasn’t enough to clean out my pores, particularly if I’m having a blackhead episode, I’ll use this scrub afterward just to seal the deal. However, because of the low lather, it also works great solo. It’s gentle enough that you can use it several times a week if need be, though obviously I don’t recommend going crazy overboard with the scrubbing; even with a gentle formula, your skin does need a break!

I used this stuff during the winter months without any dryness, which kind of surprised me. It doesn’t leave my skin red or stinging, and the smell isn’t harsh at all. Overall this is one of the gentlest acne scrubs I’ve ever picked up, drugstore or otherwise. As with the pore wash, I feel they’ve made a fair claim regarding the product’s effectiveness; I feel like using this scrub does a lot to keep my skin clearer and less oily throughout the day, which makes me very excited to use it this summer (the prime time of oily skin).

I do have to note that I’m a huge fan of the packaging. Many tubes, whether of scrubs or of another product like a hand creme or shampoo, are so rigid that it’s difficult to squeeze all of the product out. This one is super-flexible and very nearly rolls up like a toothpaste tube, so you can squeeze out every last drop of product. That’s a feature that makes this budget-conscious gal extremely happy.

My last notes: this product is 100% vegetarian and is Leaping Bunny certified. Be aware that some people may have an allergic reaction to the walnut shells!

My verdict: Another win! I love this scrub beyond words. Obviously I’ve already repurchased this product and I can’t imagine finding a replacement for it any time soon.

Product review: Alba Botanica Natural Acne Dote Deep Pore Wash

Today I’m kicking off a three-part series of reviews on a trio of Alba Botanica acne products I used up this month. Today I’ll review the regular wash, tomorrow I’ll show you the scrub, and on Sunday I’ll be posting a review on the treatment gel.

The product: Alba Botanica Natural Acne Dote Deep Pore Wash; $10

The claim: 2% salycylic acid derived from willow bark deep cleans pores. 70% of users saw clearer skin within 7 days. (From their website)

I tried it: My skin is combination-oily, with the odd breakout or blackhead, but it’s also sensitive. Finding a wash that addresses all of my concerns is tricky, so I was hoping I’d have good luck with a natural formula.

I’m not sold on the thin formula; it’s very watery, and I feel like it would be easier to work with a gel or cream cleanser. It’s easy to pour out way too much of this product, and if you’re not careful you can get it in your eyes, since it is so runny. However, it does lather up fairly well, despite being sulfate-free. (Sulfates are what cause traditional washes to lather and foam so wonderfully.)

I typically leave this cleanser on my face for 30-60 seconds so it can really work its magic. Most days this won’t cause any redness or burning, though on more sensitive days (if I’ve done a masque that morning, or if my face is wind-chapped) I just lather and rinse to avoid any stinging. This is an issue I’ve always had with acne washes, though, not specifically with this product, so that’s nothing new.

I feel like this cleanser does a good job of deep-cleaning my pores with overdrying my skin. It’s gentle enough that I can use it on a daily basis. A little goes a long way and the smell is not too harsh, which I appreciate, as I’m not big on scented face washes.

It does seem to pull off foundation fairly well but like any acne product, I would not use this to remove makeup around the eyes, since you’ll wind up burning yourself and needing to rinse out your eyes! I’ve used it after using oily makeup removers on my face and it does seem to cut through the oil fairly well to get my skin clean. I feel like I should just throw that out there for anyone who’s wondering.

I would agree with the statement that this wash gives you clearer skin within a week. I’ve switched back and forth from this wash to another a few times this winter and every time I switched back, there was a notable improvement in my skin within several days, with the most notable improvement being visibly cleaner and smaller pores. Long-term, my pores appear to have shrunk, I have to use deep cleansing masques less often, and my breakouts are reduced.

It also does seem that using this product keeps my skin looking and feeling less oily and shiny throughout the day. I have real problems with midday T-zone shine, whether or not I wear makeup of any kind, and I’ve noticed that the amount of oil and shine has decreased quite a bit since I started using this wash on a daily basis.

One last note: this product is 100% vegetarian and is Leaping Bunny certified.

My verdict: We have a winner! My skin has definitely changed for the better since I’ve started using this wash and I will definitely continue to buy it (even if I would prefer a thicker formula). I officially now have a Holy Grail face wash.

Product review: Giovanni Refreshing Facial Cleansing Towelettes

Are these the best makeup removing wipes ever? I think I’ve mentioned these from time to time but have never really gotten around to doing a proper review of them, so…here you go!

The product: Giovanni Refreshing Facial Cleansing Towelettes; $6.99 for 30-count package; at drugstores or giovannicosmetics.net.

The claim: Alcohol-free & oil-free; citrus extracts aid in refining skin’s texture; cucumber extract soothes and hydrates; antioxidants help combat skin-damaging free radicals; ultra-soft to comfortably remove makeup & mascara.

I tried them: As you can see from the clearance sticker on the package, this was one of those lovely surprise finds that came out of a quick browse through Target’s clearance beauty goodies. I grabbed these because I was unhappy with my liquid makeup remover (all I’m saying is, oil-free my foot).

These cloths are very strong–they remind me of those paper towel advertisements where the towel is being scrubbed and stretched to demonstrate how tough it is–yet they’re quite soft. They’re also nice and large; one towelette is more than sufficient for even the most made-up face. They’re neither sopping wet nor too dry and not scratchy in the least, and they don’t tear very easily. I actually thought I might tear one in half since I was just wiping off a swipe of lipstick and didn’t need the whole wipe, but they’re tougher than they appear!

I really love the scent. I’ve tried three different varieties of the Giovanni face wipes now and this is my favorite; the citrus is refreshing and the cucumber is relaxing. It’s a very fresh scent and not artificial at all.

Now obviously all of these little elements really add up to make or break a product, but the most essential question is this: do these wipes really remove makeup as promised? They do. They pull off every last trace of foundation, waterproof eye makeup and long-wearing lip color, and they do it without tugging, scratching, or drying out my skin. Of great importance to me is the face that they don’t irritate my eyes; I have a lot of trouble with products making my eyes itch and water, and this one doesn’t bother them in the least. These wipes also don’t leave behind an oily residue; I can swatch a lipstick, wipe it off, swatch another, wipe again, and keep on going without any slick buildup on my lips.

Which brings me to my next point: I was a little dubious of the phrase “facial on the go”. I’m very picky about my skincare and I don’t like the feeling of any residue left on my face, and in my experience, makeup removers almost always leave residue behind that needs to be washed away. If they don’t leave residue, it’s almost always because they sucked all the moisture out of your face!

However, these towelettes really do leave my skin feeling fresh, clean, and hydrated. I don’t feel the need to rinse my face or apply a moisturizer after using them. I do feel like they make my skin look better with regular use, much as an antioxidant-packed cleanser might do. Whether you’re traveling, tossing them in a gym bag, or just too tired to properly wash your face at night (guilty), these wipes are really a big miracle in a tiny package.

And now for the cherry on top: they’re vegan; free of phthalates, artificial fragrances, dyes, sulfates and parabens; and they’re Leaping Bunny-certified. (Big dance of happiness!)

My verdict: A must-have. Target keeps changing up their beauty counter and right now it doesn’t look like they’re carrying these wipes, but they’re available through the Giovanni website and Drugstore.com, and I do believe my local health food store stocks them as well. Wherever you find them, I highly recommend grabbing a package, because they’re winning my nomination for the best makeup removing wipes available.

If you don’t like fragranced products, try the unscented version (available here)–they come in second place only on account of my love for citrus-scented products. :)

Product review: Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo

I don’t think I’ve posted a full-length product review in some time, have I? Well, today I have a full product review on one of my Holy Grail beauty products: a shampoo that’s not only vegan but can be found at almost any mass retailer in the country (gasp!).

The product: Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo ($8-$9 for 8.5 fl oz)

The claim: Invigorating formula is designed to clarify and alleviate flaking scalp. Sulfate-free formula is safe for color-treated hair. Suitable for all hair types.

I tried it: I should first tell you that this review almost didn’t happen. Why? I didn’t buy this for myself–I bought it for my husband! I was trying to find cruelty-free substitutes for his favorite products, and this was the least girly-looking shampoo bottle in the natural beauty section at Target. I figured that if he didn’t like it, I’d use it eventually, since it is a vegan formula.

Flash forward a few days, and he’s raving about how much he likes it. When he recommended I try it, I thought, Why not? I can review it for the blog later. As it turns out, not only did I try it and like it, I LOVED it. I love it so much, I’m going to condense my love down into list form for your convenience.

I love that this shampoo…

  • Is vegan!
  • Smells like candy canes! Even my husband called it “a breath mint for your head”. I love minty-smelling stuff and this one is delightful.
  • Leaves my hair super-shiny and bouncy, but not dry! It’s a delicate balance between clean and over-clean, and I find that shampoos that get your hair and scalp squeaky clean and shiny can also make it feel dry.
  • Cleans so well while remaining sulfate free! I’ve tried sulfate free shampoos in the past that worked okay, but didn’t clean well enough to let me skip a wash on the second day. Again, this shampoo nicely walks the fine line between clean and over-scrubbed.
  • Is affordable! On top of the low price, you can often find sales and/or coupons for this brand at stores like Target and ULTA.
  • Is color-safe! Some shampoos dull your color (whether natural or processed), so it’s great to find one that is color-safe while still so effective.
  • Relieves flaking! If you’re switching over from an animal-tested formula like Head and Shoulders, give this a try. I can’t promise it will be a perfect match for your old dandruff shampoo, but it’s worth a shot; the tea tree oil does a lovely job of clarifying your hair and scalp while remaining all-natural!
  • Is so easy to find! Vegan shampoo that can be purchased at Walmart?! Yes, it’s possible!

My verdict: Buy it in bulk! I actually have trouble staying stocked up on this item, since both the hubby and I use it. This is hands-down my favorite shampoo ever and the scent alone makes me happy every time I wash my hair. I definitely feel like my hair is healthier since switching from a regular chemical-laden formula to this one and I’ll continue to stock up on it every chance I get!