Monday, February 22, 2010

Not frugal, but fabulous: Review: LaVanila The Healthy Deodorant Lavender Vanilla

It's been a long time since I last posted. Too long. My excuse? Well, I don't have one. Busy-ness, I suppose, but I also lost the love for trying new products. And, I admit, I have been straying, both from my green principles AND from my frugal principles. However, my skin rewarded me for going back to traditional drugstore products by breaking out nastily, so I had to revamp my skincare routine, and am now back. I've got my skin back under control and I have discovered a few products that I really like. So, I should tell you about them.

As my last review was of a deodorant, it only seems fitting to do yet another deodorant review. Now, this one is NOT frugal. By any stretch of the imagination. It is $18. And yes, that image is from Sephora, as that is where it is easiest to find this product.
So, how does one justify an $18 deodorant? Well, I can't. If your definition of frugal is to only get cheap products, you'll have to move along. But if your definition includes getting good value for money, or splurging a bit more for the best products and scrimping when it doesn't matter, then continue reading.
In my last review, I was happy with the Tom's of Maine, but as time went by, I became less happy. I don't think that the product got any less effective, really, but I was tired of always stinking a bit in the evenings, and in the mornings before I showered. I became tired of always having to wash/shower if I wanted to change to go out in the evenings, or if I wanted to go out to exercise in the morning. I became tired of not always being fresh. I mean, when you've spent years using antiperspirants you get used to a certain level of non-stinkiness. Not to say the Tom's product isn't good. It's just not great.

I decided to just try the LaVanila. Just to see. It was getting good reviews on the Sephora website, so I gave it a shot. And this stuff rocked my world. You know how I wrote in the last review that my sweat and lavender don't mix? Well, this is a gentle, powdery vanilla-y lavender, and if it stops you from having BO, then there's no stinky mixing going on. So I really like the scent. When I use this product, I do not smell in the evening. Actually, I do smell - if I stick my nose in my armpit I can smell a faint gentle, powdery vanilla-y lavender. It still smells nice. And it continues to the next morning. And yes, in the interests of science, I've tried not showering and just re-applying some deodorant, and I didn't stink the second day either. This really works. And the skin under my arms is looking better - it is not red, flaky, irritated, inflamed, or any of the other things that it occasionally was in the old days. Of course, as it's a deodorant and not an anti-perspirant, you'll still get a bit moist under the arms from time to time, but at least with this, no-one need know.

I love it. I'd give it 5 stars if only it was cheaper, so I'll go with 4.9.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review:Tom's of Maine Long Lasting Care Deodorant

I previously reviewed the Tom's of Maine deodorants here. What I didn't quite appreciate at the time was that I was using the "original care" formula, and not the "long-lasting care" formula. And while I was quite faithful to the calendula scent I will own up that by the end of the day, I was often a bit...ripe. Skanky, as it were.

Well, I am pleased to say that I am skank no more! I went shopping a good while back (yes, I know it's been a long time since I did a review), in desperate need of some new deodorant, and the store only had the long-lasting varieties. I was, as I say, desperate, and while I'd normally prefer to smell like a flower than a fruit, I picked up the apricot scent, scowling slightly. But, um, it worked. It worked remarkably well, in fact, that often by the end of a long day in the heat and humidity, I am still quite fresh and delightful to be around. Not that I'd want you to stick your nose right in my armpit, you understand, but I no longer need to keep my arms glued to my sides in the vain hope that no noxious odors will waft out. But I didn't think too much of it, I admit, raised as I was on the not-so-green aluminum-containing anti-perspirants. You come to expect a certain level of competence out of your deodorant. So it was only when I finished that deodorant stick and went back to the calendula, that I realized my terrible mistake. All of a sudden I was stinky again, and not just at 10pm, but often at 10am and all points inbetween.

The "long-lasting" formula really IS that much better than the regular formula. Therefore, consider this as a revised review. Choose the "long-lasting" variety and your nose will be happier. And the apricot scent is growing on me too. It's quite a creamy apricot so it doesn't scream "fresh and fruity" or anything.

4.8 stars. I knocked it down from 5 stars because I'd love a floral scent that isn't lavender to be available. My sweat and lavender don't make for a good combination, sadly.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Review: Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 30

I promise that I wanted to love this, I really did. I've been trying to use a daily facial moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or preferably 30 for a long time. And none of them have really worked out. And then I saw some blurb for this product and it had those buzzwords that really got me going like...creamy, and moisturizing and smooth. So I thought I'd give it a go.
First of all, it is creamy and smooth. To a point. It has quite a nice texture if you're working on a small area of skin. It is a little hard to rub in, as are all chemical-free sunscreens, but it's not too bad. Except I would go to the mirror a little while later and see white fuzz around my hairline and on my eyebrows - not that that's an issue for this product alone, as again, it's a "feature" of using a physical sunscreen, but it bugs me to think that other people might be thinking that I have a dandruff problem on my eyebrows.
As for using it as a facial moisturizer, it is not quite emolient enough for me. I wouldn't hold that against it if it were the only problem, though, as it's not marketed as a facial moisturizer so I don't expect it to perform wonderfully on that score.
Oh but the smell. I can't deal with the smell. Maybe you'll love it. Maybe it's just me. And I'm assuming the smell comes from the hemp seed oil, as I don't know what that normally smells like, but I squeeze some out of the tube, and am immediately transported to my elementary school, and more to the point, to the disinfectant that they used in the bathrooms. Now, I didn't grow up in the States - maybe your elementary school disinfectant experience was different than mine, and this product won't create any such associations in your mind. But, I can't escape it, and I don't like the thought of putting toilet cleaner on my face.
So, I tried using it for its intended purpose, as a body sunscreen. I had an outdoor event to go to, and decided to slather some on my arms, neck and shoulder areas. Except I have got used with sunscreen to squirting a lot out, smoothing it a little over the entire skin area I wish to cover (for example, my arms, neck and shoulders), and allowing it to soak in a bit while I am rubbing it in. This is not the way to use this sunscreen. If you don't use a small amount on a small area, rub it in well, and then move to another small area and reapply another small amount, and rub that in well, you are facing disaster. It dries out easily and becomes impossible to rub in if you leave it sitting on your skin too much. I ended up with flaking, balling, nasty dry sunscreen. I tried to go and wet my hands to see if I could improve it, but then ended up with flaking, balling dry sunscreen with a wet yellowy layer of milky stuff on top. Ugh. I rinsed it off and started again with a different product.
I am still using the product, as a daily sunscreen for my hands. And it's not so bad. After all, the backs of my hands are a pretty small area so it is hard to go wrong with that. It's moisturizing enough as a hand cream but I have switched to something else for my face.
I'm going to go with 2 and a half stars. It could work for some things, if you are careful with how you apply it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Feline Pine Scoop Clumping Cat Litter

Do you know which review I consistently get the most comments on? It's not a moisturizer or any of the many soaps I have reviewed, it's the cat litter. Which tells me that there's a real need out there for natural cat litters - we're all still searching for the holy grail of perfection.

Currently kitty and I are using Feline Pine clumping litter. I'm not exactly sure what I expected when I picked this up, but the very lightweight box should have tipped me off. Feline Pine Original is pellets but the Scoop variety is...sawdust. OK, it's sawdust with some guar gum added but it looks, smells, and acts just like sawdust.

The smell of this is quite pleasant - if you like sawdust. And actually, it's got very good odor control abilities. It really does keep the litter box smell down. The clumping ability is fairly adequate. However, I find that clumps fall apart pretty easily when scooped, so I end up not shaking the scoop too vigorously and throw away quite a lot of good litter with the used. This means that I go through a lot of this product, and at $5 a box (or thereabouts) that can add up pretty quickly. The real problem with this litter is that kitty and I track it all over the house. All over. It's so lightweight and clings tenaciously to you that it gets everywhere. The rugs and kitty's favorite lounging spot now need de-sawdusting on a regular basis.  And the floors? Sometimes I have visions of one of my shoes somehow getting involved in a criminal investigation and ending up puzzling the CSI as to the flecks of sawdust embedded in the insole: "it's as if this person was walking around barefoot in a lumber yard and then tracked the sawdust into her shoes.  But then there's minute quantities of guar gum and cat urine mixed in...?"

I am putting up with the sawdust because I like the odor control, and because it doesn't kick up clouds of dust with that chemical nostril burn that regular litter has.  In fact, we've been using it for months and have no current intention of switching. But it's not my holy grail.

Three stars.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: Ecover Lavender and Aloe Vera Hand Soap

Sometimes I worry about reviewing things on this blog. After all, the whole point of the blog was to review green products that the average person could easily obtain and afford. It's all very well for Gwyneth Paltrow to go green (and I'm sure she does it much better than I), but she has a lot more spare cash than I do, so expensive organic items are not a stretch for her. Therefore, when I buy something that doesn't necessarily qualify as "frugal" I agonize over whether I should post it, or risk being found out as someone that if often not all that frugal at all. Case in point: $7 soaps. And then comes a posting gap while I wrestle with my inner demons. OK, so I exaggerate. But that brings me to....

Ecover hand soap. I'd tried to switch to just using bar soaps, because I figured that the plastic packaging for and extra chemicals in liquid hand soaps made them less environmentally friendly than bar soaps. But I was not enjoying them. I mean, actually, they're fine in the shower, but for washing my hands, I prefer the liquid soap. I am also a fan of all things Ecover - I think they are a very environmentally aware company and their products generally work well, although I do squirm a little about the extra carbon footprint involved in shipping the products from Europe to the States. But when I saw this soap on offer at Whole Foods for $4.49 for 250 ml (3.4 fl oz), I snapped it up. Hey, there's a refill that you can buy, so if I love it, I will switch to the refill at some point.

Oh, and I DO love it. It has this wonderful lavender aroma that hits you as soon as you pump out a dollop into your hand. It is very comforting, and at the same time, a clean scent that makes you feel like you are waging germ warfare because of the natural antiseptic properties of lavender. And it clears your head at the same time. And sometimes, let's face it, if we're washing our hands in the bathroom, it is nice to have a burst of a lovely fresh scent to take away any other....odors. Ahem.  It lathers well, cleans well, and have I mentioned that I love the smell? It doesn't seem to dry out my hands, so in my view it is an all-around winner.

Four and a half stars - only a little less than five because of the price. I'd LOVE it to  be cheaper!

Update:  I've been finding this soap a little drying on my hands, so I'm knocking the review down to four stars because of that. I still love the smell, but I'd rather not have to use hand cream on top!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Adventures in homemade greenness

I promised that this was going to be the year when I got better at homemade greenness. And I fully intend to follow through on that promise.  There are so many areas where I waste money and resources buying premade stuff - cleaning products, facial care products and food. 

The first thing I decided to tackle was food. Specifically, seitan. If you don't know, one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat. You don't have to go completely vegetarian - there are campaigns out there such as Meatless Monday which provide inspiration to go vegetarian one day a week. I am already a vegetarian, but I confess to being a bit of a processed-food vegetarian. So, on to seitan. Seitan is a protein made of wheat gluten (so, if you're gluten intolerant, obviously this isn't for you). It is also known as "wheat meat".  It's low in calories and fat, and super high in protein (for something vegetarian). But alas, it is expensive if you buy it ready made - $3.99 for 2.5 servings at Whole Foods. If you've never tried it before, I suggest buying one of those packets and giving it a go in a stir fry. They are usually sold in chiller cabinets with the fresh tofus and meat substitutes. Don't be afraid to flavor it up with soy sauce, hot sauce, whatever, and even let it go slightly crisp with the cooking. Delicious.

As I have an awesome cookbook called Veganomicon, which promised me that homemade seitan was easy to make, I decided to try my hand at making it. You have to buy vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast, but otherwise the remaining ingredients should be readily available and may be things you already have.  I think I spent about $8-9 at Whole Foods for enough organic vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast to make 8-10 batches of seitan. The recipe I used was similar to this one except I didn't put any flavorings in it other than 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and it only used 1 cup of flour, cooking up in 8 cups of broth/water. Instead of the flavorings, it has 1 tblspn olive oil. Each batch makes 3 servings.

The book authors were right  - it was super easy. And yummy. I even made the vegetable broth myself, from all the wilting vegetables that were cluttering up the fridge and making me feel guilty. Using homemade broth did make it a two-day process, but now I also have 8 individually frozen cups of broth, that I can use in other recipes, and it keeps the sodium content down.

I think I count this as a success! The pic is today's lunch, which was a seitan stir fry.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: Tom's of Maine Natural Moisturizing Body Bar

I am back after a long hiatus! Woot!

First things first, soap. I promised you a review of the soap that made me itch. This isn't it. I am having a mental block about writing that review because I still don't know if it was really the soap or if it was something else. So I have decided to move on, put it behind me and just say never again! But I will say that it was one of the $7 soaps, and I am done with $7 soaps for the time being anyway. $7 is too spendy for soap these days, what with the crushing recession and all.

So here we are, Tom's of Maine, which retails for about $3.99 but for which I am constantly finding $1 off coupons. Even on the front of the shelf where it is being sold. I wanted to like it so much, I really did. I use the Tom's calendula deodorant, which I reviewed here. It's still working pretty well for me, even after many months, and I really like the smell which is a nice spicy floral. I thought the matching soap would therefore make me smell delicious, not to mention like I had actually planned a combination of fragrances that matched. I had visions of feeling sophisticated.

The soap lathers very well, I have no complaints there. It doesn't contain animal ingredients, which is a prerequisite for me, and we know that Tom's has a good track record with natural products. It seems to be lasting well, and has a nice creamy feel. It even leaves my skin feeling nicely moisturized just as it is. It's just the smell that bothers me. You know when you have a dried flower arrangement and they sit out for about, ooh, a year, and get covered in dust? That's what this smells like. Dusty dried flowers, with a tinge of marigold somewhere underneath the dust. And it lingers on the skin for a while as well so I am going to work feeling like I'm wearing some old clothes of grandma's that I pulled out of the back of the closet. OK, that last sentence is a slight exaggeration - you actually have to inhale fairly deeply to smell it after 10-15 minutes.

Having said that, I do think the smell is more unisex than the deodorant. I can imagine it smelling quite pleasant on a man (provided he were brave enough to try a floral soap to begin with), and if you're sharing soap with your partner it could be a good choice. But, alas, it is not the soap holy grail that I wanted.

Three and a half stars.