vegetarian

Product review: Eat Green Tea edible tea leaves

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

I have a very busy lifestyle and am used to gulping coffee or energy drinks to stay alert throughout the day (and into the night!). The trouble, of course, with chugging down coffee and energy drinks is that the caffeine boost is usually short-lived and all of that caffeine and sugar coursing through your body can leave you feeling pretty jittery and wired. Too much caffeine makes my heart pound, too much sugar makes me feel sick to my stomach, and then when I want to go to sleep I have trouble drifting off because I’m still so wired. I think anyone bolting from one obligation to the next fueled solely by Starbucks and Monster Energy can relate to this dilemma!

Enter Eat Green Tea. When the company sent me my sample package I was very skeptical that such a small thing could keep me on my feet all day. However, after trying it out for a week, my opinion has changed–I’m totally hooked! This product mixes easily into a smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast, but you could also sprinkle it over salad, into a sandwich, in soup, into pasta sauce, etc. It has a bit of a grainy texture that reminds me of adding oregano or other spices to a dish, so it’s easy to disguise–and there’s no unpleasant taste, unlike some other energy supplements that I’ve sampled in the past. I’m sure in the grand scheme of things taste & texture should be secondary to how well the product works, but personally, if something tastes off-putting I won’t use it, no matter how well it works!

According to the Eat Green Tea website, one serving of this edible tea is supposed to deliver 100x the antioxidant power of simply drinking a cup of tea, which offers everything from increased energy to fat burning, improving heart health, and repairing skin damage. Obviously I haven’t been using it long enough to say if it will help me lose weight or improve my skin, but it definitely delivers on the promise of an energy boost! It makes me feel much more energetic and alert, both physically and mentally, and it doesn’t have the accompanying jitters of too much caffeine or sugar. It’s also a sustained energy boost, versus a quick spike, so I still feel the effects after several hours instead of reaching for another cup of coffee. My heart isn’t pounding and I don’t feel like I’m going to crash in an hour, but when I’m ready to sleep at the end of the day, I can lie down and go right to sleep without the post-buzz jitters keeping me awake.

I feel like it’s a very practical purchase, too–a one-month supply costs $25 and qualifies for free shipping from Amazon (score!), whereas I can easily blow through more than that amount in a month if I’m buying energy drinks, candy, coffee on the go and sodas from the vending machine to keep me on my feet. Not to mention–this is a much healthier choice than all that sugar and chemical additives! I like that it’s organic and unprocessed, so you know you’re getting the most for your money with no hidden harmful ingredients.

Overall this has to be the best health-related product I’ve tried all summer, and I will definitely be ordering more–I am head over heels in love. If you want more information on this product or want to order your own bag, you can find Eat Green Tea via their website here or order from Amazon.com here.

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.

Product review: Hard Candy All Lid Up Creme Eye Shadow

Another product from my birthday haul! I have wanted a budgeproof teal shadow for some time now and thought I would check off two objectives by also trying out a new product: a creme shadow from Hard Candy. Read on for a full review and swatches.

The product: Hard Candy All Lid Up Creme Shadow, $5; shown here in Tidal Wave. Available at Walmart stores.

The claim: From their website: “Vibrant, long wearing crème eye shadow lights up and enhances eyes. Our groundbreaking hybrid formula has a soft cushion texture that allows it to be worn as eye shadow or eyeliner. This crease proof, stay put formula is blended luminous, multi-colored pearls that provides glamorous evening looks. Available in 10 gorgeous, vivid shades!”

Ingredients:  Isodocane, mica, polyethylene, tribehenin, isohexadecane, polysilicone-11, isobutylmethacrylate/bis-hydroxypropyl, dimethicone acrylate, copolymer, dimethicone, silica (in gold and green shades), C13-15 alkane, phenoxyethanol. May contain: titanium dioxide, iron oxides, manganese violet, ferric ferrocyanide, carmine, ferric ammonium ferrocyanide.

Ingredient notes: Hard Candy products are not tested on animals and this appears to be vegan. These products are made in the USA. This is chock full of strange chemical names, but most seem to have a fairly low toxicity.

I tried it: The packaging is a basic small plastic jar with a screw-on lid–nothing fancy. This shadow is incredibly dry, which I did not expect. I had to use a cotton swab to dig it out of the pot and apply it on the lid, and then used my fingers to blend it out. In my opinion a brush just won’t do the job. You’ll also want to use a cotton swab to shape and blend the edges of the color very quickly before it sets, because once it does, it’s budge-proof. I think the drier texture–while a total pain in the butt during application–helps it last longer with out creasing or slipping on my oily lids.

Here is the look I put together using this shadow for my main allover lid color. I used my mini Hard Candy Meteor-Eyes baked shadow in Bad Reputation on the inner corner, around the outer corner of the eye and up across the crease to soften the edges of the teal shadow, and then along the lower lash line. I used a pop of peachy shadow under my arch. I lined the upper lash line with the Milani Ultra Fine Liquid Eye Liner in Black Vinyl and lined the lower lash line with my Urban Decay 24/7 pencil in Zero. I’m wearing Hard Candy Flat to Fab black mascara in these pics, and if it’s starting to look a bit droopy–that’s because I was wearing it all night!

This shadow is pretty vibrant. It works best if you apply a thin coat and then possibly a second to build up the color, or top it with a matching powder shadow (though I don’t own any powder teals). Despite gripping your lids all day, it does remove fairly easily with waterproof eye makeup remover, and does not stain the skin. Because it’s so budgeproof, it works great as a liner.

My final thoughts: This shadow is just kind of “meh” to me. I guess I like the overall end result, and it’s hard to find cheap, vibrant vegan shadows, but I just wish the texture wasn’t so dry and difficult to apply. I think I would possibly consider purchasing more shades in the future, but I’m not rushing out for more at the moment–I’ll be looking at some other brand options first.

Recipe: cinnamon raisin bread

Today I’ve got a recipe for cinnamon raisin bread! When I was a kid my mom baked all of our bread from scratch. I was totally spoiled in the carb department. This is the recipe she passed down to me and not only is it super-easy to make, it only requires five ingredients to make the basic bread–no special bread flour, etc.–so it’s super-cheap, too. If you want to make plain bread for sandwiches or garlic toast, just go through the steps to make the bread without adding any cinnamon and raisins.

Here’s what you’ll need (makes two loaves):

  • 3 cups warm (not hot) water
  • 1 tbsp. (or one packet) yeast
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 8 cups flour
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Raisins to taste (I use about three cups for two loaves! Don’t judge!)

Put the water, yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl and allow to “work” for 10-15 minutes. Make sure your water is only warm and not boiling hot, or it can kill the yeast. Add the oil and flour and mix well; dump out onto floured countertop, knead lightly, and return to mixing bowl to rise. Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm corner of the kitchen (away from any drafts) to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Flour the counter again and put a little shortening (vegan substitute) on your hands so you won’t stick to the dough, then punch down the risen dough and dump it out on the counter to knead lightly. Add the raisins and cinnamon and work into the dough as you are kneading. Cut the dough into two sections, form into loaves, and place in greased bread pans; cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Bake the loaves for 40-45 minutes. Pop them out of the pans to cool on a cooling rack so the bottoms don’t get soggy; once they’ve cooled a bit, slice up and enjoy!

Once the loaves are completely cool, you can wrap up the second one for the freezer or give it to a friend…if it lasts that long (it never does in our house!). This bread makes great toast, too!

Product review: Milani Ultrafine Liquid Eye Liner

I’ve kind of been slacking off on the makeup reviews, eh? And with so many new products to try from my birthday haul! Today I’ve got swatches and review of two liquid liners that I picked up. Liquid liner is kind of my bane (shaky hands) but you can’t deny that it looks pretty cool, so I was hoping these would be easy for a liquid liner newbie to use!

The product: Milani Ultrafine Liquid Eye Liner; $7.49 at drugstores or through the Milani website

The claim: Long-lasting, waterproof formula. Can be applied in a thick or thin line. Dries to a sparkling finish.

The ingredients/ingredient notes: Milani does not test on animals and I do not see any ingredients in these two liners that should pose a problem for vegetarians/vegans. For shade 01 “Black Vinyl”: Water (Aqua), Iron Oxides (CI 77491,  CI 77492, CI 77499), Styrene/Acrylates/Ammonium Methacrylate Copolymer,  Butylene Glycol,  Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone,  Sorbitol,  Benzyl Alcohol,  Laureth-2 Benzoate, Silica, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Laureth-12 Sulfate, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides,  Sodium Methylparaben,  Ammonium Hydroxide, Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids,  Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride,  Sodium Polyacrylate, Potassium Sorbate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Tetrasodium Edta,  Coconut Acid, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride. For shade 06 “Emerald Glisten”: Water (Aqua), Styrene/Acrylates/Ammonium Methacrylate Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Silica, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate,  Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone, Sorbitol, Laureth-2 Benzoate, Sodium Laureth-12 Sulfate,  PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides,  Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids,  Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Polyacrylate,  Tin Oxide, Ammonium Hydroxide, Tetrasodium Edta, Coconut Acid,  Hexylene Glycol,  Sodium Chloride,  Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Methylparaben, Potassium Sorbate,  Methylparaben, Propylparaben. +/- May Contain: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090), Mica, Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), Yellow  5 Lake (CI 19140).

I tried it: I purchased a glossy black (“Black Vinyl”) and a sparkly green (“Emerald Glisten”. These liners have a very long handle/brush which makes handling a little clumsy; I would have preferred a shorter handle/brush for better control. As you can see in the swatch above, it can be difficult to just flick on the liner; because the brush is meant to create both thick and thin lines, and the handle is so darn gawky, it takes some practice to be able to draw the line precisely how you want it. My first practice lines on my arm were pretty spotty, going from thick to thin and dark to light.     
Once you figure out how to angle the wand and how much pressure to apply, it does draw wonderful lines. It’s very fluid, so there’s no patchiness or drag. You can create thick or thin lines, so you can create a subtle line or a thick sixties wing.  Here’s what Black Vinyl looks like on the eye:






For this shot, I added a thin line of Emerald Glisten above Black Vinyl for a layered liner look:

It takes a few seconds to dry, so don’t blink! However, once it’s dry, it stays put like no other. You will definitely need a dedicated waterproof eye makeup remover to get this liner off at the end of the day! Emerald Glisten did leave a faint stain behind, but Black Vinyl did not.  

My final thoughts: This is an amazing formula for the money, and I would even probably pay more for it. I just wish the handle wasn’t so unwieldy, but I think with a little practice it will be fine.

Do you have a favorite liquid liner, or any liquid liner tips to share with me? Tell me in the comments!

Product review: Essence LE Floral Grunge blush “Be Flowerful”

Hey everyone! Sorry I’ve been so AWOL from the blogosphere for the past week. I just haven’t had a lot of drive to sit down and write lately. But I wanted to finally post this review of the Essence blush that I picked up as part of my birthday makeup haul.

The product: Essence LE Floral Grunge blush “Be Flowerful”; $3 at drugstores

The claim: Silky soft blush for a fresh and stylish look.

Ingredients/ingredient notes: Talc, mica, magnesium stearate, polyester-3, caprylic/capric triglyceride, ethylhexyl palmitate, bisdiglyceryl polyacyladipate-1, caprylyl glycol, hexylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, yellow 5, yellow 7, orange 5, red 21, red 28, titanium dioxide. There are mild toxin concerns for talc, mica, phenoxyenthanol and titanium dioxide as well as the colorants used in this product, according to the Skin Deep database. Essence does not test their products on animals and this product contains no animal-sourced ingredients, so it is vegan-friendly.

I tried it: The packaging is a very simple, slim, clear case with a hinged lid. Nothing fancy, but I like that it’s sleek enough to fit in a small pocket on a cosmetics bag and yet has a large enough pan to allow you to easily sweep up the product.

Surprisingly, this is fairly pigmented blush. It’s buildable and you can create a very bright look if you want, but if you use a light hand you can also get a sheer, pretty wash of coral color for daytime wear. This is a bit more of a coral pink on skin than it appears in the package, and it is bright–but it does have a satiny finish, so you won’t look like a disco flamingo, I promise. 

I feel like the wear time on this blush is fairly decent, provided you’re layering it properly over a primer and foundation. On my bare skin it fades more quickly as I have combo/oily skin. For extra wear time you could use it over a matching creme blush like this Flower Win Some Rouge Some blush that I reviewed earlier this year.

My final thoughts: For $3 you really can’t go wrong, but this is one product that would be a bargain at twice the price! I personally prefer peachy/coral blushers to standard pinks as I find they’re much more flattering for my skin tone, so I’m thrilled to finally find a powder formula that combines a good formula with a wallet-friendly price.

What’s in my…toothpaste? Product comparison (Tea Tree Therapy vs. Tom’s of Maine)

Today I have a slightly different post for you. At last week’s #greenchat with +Ana Green (follow her blog here or find her on Twitter), the topic was greenwashing. Loosely defined, greenwashing means that a product or company portrays themselves as very natural and “green” while in fact the products contain plenty of synthetic ingredients, harsh chemicals, etc.

It’s an interesting topic and one that I’ve tried to learn more about, since there are no regulations on how a company uses the terms “natural” or “organic” and the burden is really on the consumer to know what they’re buying. This means understanding the ingredients list on the product. I would be the first to admit that I’m still learning what all of those strange terms on my products really mean, and the #greenchat sent me off on a quest to unravel some of the more puzzling labels in my bathroom cabinet.

I was thinking of doing a little review on these two tubes of “natural” toothpaste we’ve been using anyway, and I thought I might as well compare the ingredients in the two at the same time (since a toothpaste review alone seems like a weird feature for a beauty blog!). If you’d like to see more posts like this one, let me know, and I will do some ingredient comparisons for shampoo, body wash, etc.

Here are the two toothpastes: Tea Tree Therapy Toothpaste with Baking Soda and Tom’s of Maine Whole Care with Fluoride. Tea Tree Therapy is an independent company; Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, which is not green and tests their products on animals. This might not seem like a big deal but if you’re trying to be very, very green, you’ll probably want to stay away from products owned by non-green giant corporations. Both of these products are vegan-friendly and claim to be “natural”, and they both retail for about $5, so let’s see how they compare. If an ingredient scores higher than a zero in the Skin Deep database for possible toxicity/allergens/other, I’ve listed the number (on a scale of one to ten).

Tea Tree Therapy lists the following ingredients for their toothpaste. This product contains no fluoride or artificial sweeteners:

  • calcium carbonate — mineral compound that serves as an abrasive cleansing agent
  • sorbitol — thickener/preservative that can actually have a laxative effect
  • water
  • hydrated silica (1) — an whitener that can damage tooth enamel
  • sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) —  can potentially be too abrasive for tooth enamel
  • sodium lauroyl sarcosinate (3) — a foaming, synthetic surfactant
  • flavor
  • carrageenan (2) — a thickener; can be inflammatory
  • titanium dioxide (1-3, depending on usage) — a nanoparticle used as a white pigment
  • melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil (1) — has antiseptic properties but can be an allergen/irritant
  • carum petroselinum (parsley) seed oil — freshens breath
  • helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil — natural cleanser

Tom’s of Maine lists the following ingredients:

  • sodium monofluorophosphate 0.76% (0.13% w/v fluoride ion) — fluoride was once used as an insecticide and still has poison warnings on it for over consumption. There is also debate over whether it really helps keep teeth clean and healthy.
  • glycerin — can “coat” teeth and prevent them from re-mineralizing, which can weaken them and cause issues with sensitivity and cavities
  • water
  • calcium carbonate — mineral compound that serves as an abrasive cleansing agent
  • hydrated silica (1) — an whitener that can damage tooth enamel
  • xylitol — a “natural” sweetener that has been widely touted as helping to prevent cavities, but do you know how it’s typically sourced? From GMO corn. Surprised? So was I! It can be derived from birch bark, but it’s much cheaper to get it from GMO corn (of course), so if you don’t see a “non-GMO” label on the package it may be something you want to avoid. If you’d like more info, The Healthy Home Economist has an interesting blog post here talking about why xylitol is not quite as sweet as it seems.
  • carrageenan (2) — a thickener; can be inflammatory
  • spearmint leaf oil and other natural flavors
  • sodium lauryl sulfate (1-2 depending on use) — a foaming agent that can be corrosive and irritating
  • sodium bicarbonate —  can potentially be too abrasive for tooth enamel
  • zinc citrate (3) — anti-plaque agent

It’s really interesting to see the difference between these two products. At first glance they both seem really similar, and the Tea Tree toothpaste isn’t 100% free of ingredients that could possibly cause an issue. (However, I don’t think any product is 100% free of such ingredients.) However, the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, which looks very natural, has fluoride, glycerin, xylitol, and a sulfate–not quite as “green” as it looks! That one kind of surprised me.

As far as performance, I don’t see much of a difference between the two. My teeth seem no whiter nor my breath fresher using the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. The Tea Tree Therapy does have a very strong taste but overall I would say it makes my mouth feel fresher. However, I did read that the presence of glycerin in toothpaste is what causes your teeth to feel gummy and I think that my teeth definitely feel less gummy and icky throughout the day with the Tea Tree toothpaste, as opposed to using a conventional paste. So that was kind of an interesting find!

My natural journey is obviously far from over, and I’m learning as I go, but I have to say that it’s really eye-opening to look up the individual ingredients and see what they are, where they come from, and what they do. (Time-consuming, yes, but so worth it!) I don’t know if I’ll buy the Tea Tree Therapy paste again but I probably won’t repurchase the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, now that I know ore about the fluoride and glycerin.

Any natural toothpaste recommendations for me? Have you ever bought a “natural” product and then found a really strange ingredient in it that just didn’t fit?

Product review: Giovanni Street Chic Premium Lip Balm SPF 35

I probably should have done this sooner, but since summer is here I thought it would be a good time to review some of the SPF products I have around the house. Today I’m reviewing a lip balm I picked up some time ago. I’ve heard that this is now discontinued but I’m not sure if that’s true.

I decided this week that I’m going to change the way I write up my review info. I’m becoming more interested in including ingredient information and notes on vegan formulas and possible toxicity issues, so I’m going to start including notes on the ingredient lists when possible.

Product: Giovanni Street Chic Premium Lip Balm SPF 35 in Tropical Punch, $3 through health food stores

Claim: Soothes chapped lips and protects from sunburn.

Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, octisalate 5%, oxybenzone 4%, avobenzone 1% (sunscreens); *sunflower oil, *beeswax, *jojoba oil, *cocoa butter, tocopherol, *aloe vera, *mango oil, *pineapple oil (*organic).

Ingredient notes: Vegetarian formula (contains beeswax). Leaping Bunny certified. Octinoxate has been rated a 6 by Skin Deep and Oxybenzone has been rated an 8 for toxicity, because they sink into the skin, as opposed to a physical barrier sunscreen like zinc oxide. Skin Deep rates products and ingredients on a scale of 1-10 for toxicity and other concerns; learn more about the Environmental Working Group and Skin Deep here.

I tried it: This is a standard waxy balm with very little scent or flavor. I was expecting the Tropical Punch flavor to be, I don’t know, punchier somehow. On the one hand, I was disappointed, but on the other at least it’s a good neutral balm for use alone or under lipstick.

I like the high SPF, though I don’t love the ingredients (see above). I feel like this balm doesn’t last as long as I might like; it’s better than the Burt’s Bees stinker I tried this winter (sorry, Burt’s!) but I do feel like I have to reapply every hour or so. I guess with SPF you should be reapply anyway, right?

This formula did leave my lips soft and smooth and I like that it’s lanolin free. I don’t mind the inclusion of beeswax, but that does mean that the formula is not vegan, for those of you who are interested.

My final thoughts: This was just an okay balm. Not bad, not good, just okay. I would not repurchase.

Product review: Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme

After I fell in love with my Giovanni towelettes (review here), I thought nothing else could ever compare. Once my local Target stopped stocking them, however, I had to find a replacement while I waited to order more towelettes from the Giovanni website, so I picked up these cloths from Alba Botanica. I’ve had good luck with other Alba Botanica products in the past and I remembered seeing these recommended in a beauty magazine some time back, so I thought they were at least worth a shot!

The product: Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme; $5.99/30 count at drugstores.

The claim: First, gentle cleansers remove makeup. Second, pore-refining pineapple and papaya enzymes break through oil and dull surface cells for a pore-deep clean. Finally, aloe and awapuhi tone and balance to refresh without tightness. pH Balanced. 100% Vegetarian. No: Animal Testing, Artificial Colors, Parabens, Phthalates, Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Myreth Sulfate. Leaping Bunny certified.

I tried it: Same standard deal as any facial towelette: open up the resealable package, use the sturdy and well-moistened cloth to clean your face, reseal the package and be done with it. Except that in the case of these wipes, I did not feel like they’re a one-step wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am deal. They promise to be a “makeup remover + cleanser + toner”, but they left my face and hands feeling tacky and not thoroughly cleansed. I had to wash my hands after using them, and as for my face? Well…

I’ve recently become a convert to the school of using witch hazel as a natural toner post-cleansing, and let me tell you, it makes such a difference in the way my skin looks and feels. It’s also a great test to see if your “cleanser” is really cleansing. In the case of these wipes, when I used them to wipe away a long day’s worth of foundation, grime, etc., it took not one but two cotton balls soaked in witch hazel to finish the job and leave my face feeling truly clean. I’m sorry, but that is not my definition of a “cleanser”, nor am I pleased that I have to add another step to what is supposedly a one-step cleansing routine.

I want to point out one more thing as a comparison to the Giovanni wipes. If you look up the ingredients for both of these products (just search for them at Drugstore.com), the Giovanni wipes have a much more natural ingredients list. The Alba Botanica wipes also contain both limonene and linalool; limonene has been rated a 6 out of 10 on Skin Deep’s hazard chart and both of these ingredients are listed as known allergens, with linalool apparently serving as a trigger ingredient for eczema.

I am not 100% hippie natural (well, not yet anyway) and I am okay with some products being a little less “natural” if they’re just for my use, but I’m trying to rid the house of skincare products with these ingredients because my husband will from time to time pick them up to use them, and I feel like it’s just better to avoid these allergens where possible. And obviously, if you have allergies, it’s a bummer to realize that a product that looks and sounds so green and pure has something in in that can be so harmful.

My verdict: I love Alba Botanica and I’d love to love these towelettes, but quite frankly they do not even come close to cutting it for me. They just don’t leave my face feeling clean! I will definitely not repurchase.