Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pacifica 20% off deal

For a limited time, Pacifica is offering 20% off its Tahitian Gardenia scent.

See this link. The deal is no longer offered on the Vietnamese Ylang Ylang.

Review: Juice Organics Brightening Cleanser

I want to like Juice Organics more than I actually do. I mean, what's not to love? Their sister range, Juice Beauty, which is available at places like Sephora, is three times the price, so with Juice Organics it always feels like you're getting away with something. Their products are made with certified organic ingredients, no animal testing, 100% vegetarian products. All of the products have a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. Like I said, what's not to love?

The problem is, I think, the organic juice base that all the products are made out of. Sometimes (well, a lot of the time), it just feels like you've put orange juice on your skin. And as you know, orange juice is kind of sticky and not exactly the sort of thing you want on your face (as opposed to in your face). I haven't had much luck with the Juice Organics moisturizers, as they have a bit too much of the orange juice-like thing going on. The Juice Beauty range suffers much less from this little flaw, and their moisturizers suit me much better.

Having said all that, I think the Juice Organics Brightening Cleanser might be a winner. It's $9.99 for 6 fl oz at Target. My local CVS used to carry Juice Organics, but doesn't these days for some reason. It's a little bit runny, but not too bad - at least it doesn't run through your fingers like some organic cleansers. One pump does your whole face, so it should last quite a long time. It doesn't lather much, but actually feels quite creamy while you're using it. The cleanser smells lightly citrusy if you sniff it hard, but it's a very mild scent. And it does make your face feel nice and clean, and seems to remove make up well. It contains glycolic acid, so you know you're getting some good wrinkle-fighting effects along with all the organic goodness, and it is definitely leaving my skin feeling smooth. I do find it slightly drying, though, and I find that I need to put on some moisturizer fairly quickly, so if you have more mature skin it might not be the best thing for you. It's probably best for twenties or early- to mid-thirties type ages, unless you have oily skin, then you can probably use it well into your forties without too many problems. They have a Nourishing Cleanser that is probably more suitable for mature skin, although I haven't tried that one yet (yes, I'm still feebly trying to hang on to my youth but perhaps I'll own up to mature skin with my next bottle).

Three stars.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review: Giovanni Organics Smooth As Silk Shampoo

I have a love/hate relationship with organic/green haircare products. I have dry, frizzy hair so it needs a lot of tender loving care otherwise it looks like a giant frizzy nightmare, somewhat like I just stuck my fingers in the electrical socket. Which means that many of the natural products just don't work for me very well at all. Or that I have to spend a lot of money. One line that does work for me and isn't super expensive is the Giovanni Organics Smooth As Silk range.
The shampoo is nice and creamy, and slightly pearlescent. It has a pleasant smell, though of what I couldn't really say - it's a generic shampooey/floral/herby sort of a smell. It lathers fairly well - not so much that you're covered in bubbles but not so little like some other organic shampoos that you feel like you're working oil through your hair. It cleans my hair well, and leaves it nice and soft.
The two things that bug me about this shampoo are the price and the bottle. The bottle is 8.5 fl oz, which is quite small really, and the shape of it makes getting the last of the shampoo out of the bottle a tricky proposition. That top cap is quite difficult to pull off! I wish larger bottles and/or refills were available. The price varies locally from $5.95 to $7.99, depending on the store, so it requires some shopping around. I have seen it online for as low as $5.22 but that's about as low as it seems to go. I often go off and buy a cheaper shampoo, because it bugs me to spend that much, but eventually keep coming back to this one because it just works.
Lately I've been economizing by only shampooing my hair every other day, which seems to be working pretty well. This isn't going to help if you have oily hair, but for dry hair you really don't need to shampoo every time - you can put the conditioner straight on your hair, skipping the shampoo step. Or I guess, just not wash it as often at all, and save water while you're at it. But doing this means I use the shampoo half as often as I used to, which saves me some cash right there.
I'll give this 3 and a half stars. I would have given it more if the bottle didn't annoy me so much.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Review: Guayaki Yerba Mate - Mate Chocolatte Tea

A couple of my friends are ga-ga over this Mate Chocolatté tea. After all, it's organic, it's robustly flavored and it gives you a nice kick of energy.

But I just can't get into it. I'm not quite sure what it's trying to be. Is it trying to be a coffee substitute? A hot chocolate substitute? Or a drink with its own personality? It smells like Mate tea with a hint of cinnamon and cocoa. And if you haven't smelled Mate tea and want me to describe it further, I would say there's an undertone of bark, soil and damp leaves. It's an earthy, vegetal smell. The taste is more chocolatey when you take that first sip. It's like a diluted (very diluted) hot chocolate with some cumin and cinnamon thrown in for good measure. Not that there's any cumin in it, but that's the impression that comes to mind. It's certainly not a sweet hot chocolate, but a spicy one, with an earthy aftertaste. The ingredients are Yerba Mate leaf, cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon, stevia and clove.

I suppose if you were just giving up coffee or coke, or even hot chocolate, and wanted something to make you feel like you're kind of getting a hit of your favorite beverage while being healthier than the thing you just gave up, this is probably something to go for. If you're more of a tea drinker to start with, like I am, it may not entirely hit the spot. I feel like it's trying to be too many things to too many people rather than being itself.

Sorry girls, I don't love it. It is apparently at Whole Foods for $4.99 (I didn't buy it), but for that price for 16 bags of tea, it's got to be swoon-worthy for me. And this isn't.

Two stars.

Review: Pacifica French Lilac Soap

I adore Pacifica. There, I've said it. I wondered if, in the interests of not boring you rigid with my love of all things Pacifica-related, I should limit my reviews to one soap, one perfume and one candle, because I assume that the formulations are the same. But that would just deny me the opportunity to gush.
Pacifica soaps are made with Pacifica's own biodegradable, vegan, vegetable oil and glycerin soap base, herbs and their signature fragrance blends with natural and essential oils. They are available from Whole Foods and other fine retailers for $6.95 (I think I read somewhere that Anthropologie has them also). You can also buy direct from their website and various other online stores. Now, you may be wondering what on earth is frugal about a seven dollar soap, but here's the deal - this soap is so creamy smooth, so luxurious, so nicely lathering and, importantly, doesn't dry my skin out at all. So it was Pacifica that enabled me to ditch my shower gel habit and thus stop polluting the earth with yet more needless plastic bottles to throw away. These days I only use bar soap in the shower and at the sink. Besides, I really do think that there are some things that we should allow ourselves to splurge on, if it's a reasonable splurge. After all, there must be some enjoyment in life! If it helps any, though, Pacifica regularly discounts one of its scent lines by 20%. The current discount is on Vietnamese Ylang Ylang, but it changes regularly - all the products in the discounted scent are marked down, whether that is candles, soap, perfume, or body lotion. So if you have a favorite, or want to only buy when they're on sale, this brings the price down to $5.55. I snap up random fragrances of the soap and perfume when they're reduced because I just love to try the different varieties.
The French lilac scent is a very rich, full lilac scent, if that makes sense. It's like you are suddenly transported to a beautiful house on a spring morning, and there is a large lilac bush blooming just outside the window you've just opened. Yet, it's not cloying or overpoweringly sweet because there is just a hint of other fragrences there - there's a hint of nectarine that seems to cut the floral scent just when it might get a bit too overbearing. It's beautiful, and scents the whole bathroom for days when you first unwrap the soap. It's not too strong on the body, though, which is where the perfume comes in for those days when you want to waft a fragrance behind you. If you don't want to do that, it is still possible to just pick up the fragrance for a while after you shower, so it does give you a delicate veil of fragrance on its own.
The only downside to Pacifica soaps is that they are not as long lasting as most other bar soaps. I seem to go through a bar quite quickly which is a disappointment, and upsets my frugal nature. The part of me that loves luxury, however, usually just ends up rejoicing that I get to open a new bar of a different scent and will enjoy that one for a while.
Four stars, only marked down because of the disappointment at how long the bar lasts for the money, otherwise it would be a clear 5-star product.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Physician's Formula Organic Wear Eye Shadow Duo

It may seem like I'm obsessed with Physician's Formula, but I kind of am. It's the first drug store range of organic/green makeup. I like some of the things better than others, and I hope they either improve the line or that another drug store range comes out. But for now, I think it's a great start. I mean, it's all very well that other organic lines are lovely, but $80 for a foundation (or whatever) is too steep for me.

The eye shadow duo is 15.9% organic, and is formulated with Organic Jojoba Seed Oil to moisturize the eye area, Organic Corn Starch, and Mica. According to their website, it is 100% free of harsh chemicals, synthetic preservatives, parabens, GMO's, synthetic colors, synthetic fragrances, and is 100% cruelty free. There are four color ranges - green eyes, which is two complementary shades of green and is pictured here. Blue eyes, which is two shades of blue, brown eyes which is a brown and cream, and hazel eyes which is two mauve shades. I have the hazel eyes version. Personally, as someone who doesn't want to spend too long agonizing over the right shade of eye shadow, I like this system as it takes the guesswork over what colors to pick. The product comes in mostly cardboard packaging, so it's good that they've cut down on the amount of plastic involved. It doesn't include a brush. It is retailing for $7.95 - $9.95.

I love this stuff! It goes on easily, the two colors blend very well together, and it lasts for a very long time without dissolving into creases on my eyelids. It hasn't irritated my eyes at all, nor do I find myself rubbing it off later in the day. The colors aren't garish (at least, not the mauves that I've tried), and I've been complimented on how pretty my eyes look twice since I've started using this. That might be because I wasn't regularly wearing eye shadow before, but I think it also shows that it's hard to go wrong with this, otherwise people would have just commented on the fact of me wearing eye shadow rather than that it looks nice.

Five stars!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Target Report

In the interests of big-box retailer fairness, I visited Target today to check out what green options they have available. It was a much bigger selection than Walmart. There was a large choice of Burt's Bees products, Dr. Bronner's Castille soap, a few Juice Organics items (the cheaper sister range to Juice Beauty), some Giovanni Organics shampoos (but at a fairly high price point) and some other odds and ends. What annoyed me was that these items were in the cosmetics section, and were not by the general personal care section. If Joe and Jane Public are going to be tempted to try the organic products, in my view they shouldn't have to go looking for them. Sorry, ranting. A small selection of Physician's Formula Organicwear was also available, with the Tinted Moisturizer at $9.94 (compared to $9.93 at Walmart and $11.99 at CVS).

Over in the cleaning and laundry aisles, there was a large selection of Method products, but I'm afraid they are a bit spendy for my budget these days. A couple of Seventh Generation items were also there - again, alas a bit spendy for me. Besides, I've already tried the Seventh Generation laundry detergent and didn't like it because it didn't really get my clothes clean. They did have a bottle of Arm & Hammer Essentials detergent for $2.84 for 26 loads, so I picked up a bottle to try. There seems to be some confusion over whether the Arm & Hammer is completely green because it supposedly contains optical brighteners, but I'm willing to give it a go. It supposedly is based on plant based soaps so at least it's a lot greener than your average detergent, and at that price point it's got to be worth a shot. I got the Mountain Rain scent, as that was the only one on the shelf. I wish they'd had unscented, as it smells like pine toilet cleaner, but we'll see what the clothes come out smelling like. Review to come!

They had two varieties of Tom's of Maine deodorant (apricot and unscented). And three varieties of Tom's of Maine toothpaste, which were on sale for $3.69. They are normally $4.19 (compared to $4.18 at Walmart), so I snapped up a tube.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Walmart Report

Some greenies choose to boycott Walmart on the basis that they are the evil empire.  I'm not one of them.  After I read about how the new management are trying to improve things such as employee healthcare (though not as much as we'd like, obviously), and introduce more organic choices I decided that I would give them a go.  I would rather that organic choices are available everywhere and if that means that Walmart and giant agribusiness have to get involved, so be it.  If we have to have giant agribusinesses (and yes, I do appreciate that local, mixed farming is much more green), then I would like those giant agribusiness to be farming organically. So that is why I now include Walmart in my rotation of stores to go to.  Please don't shoot me for being a bad greenie.  I'm afraid my frugal nature wins out every time.

Today I scoured the health and beauty aisles trying to find green products. The pickings were slim, but at least there were a (very) few things there if you looked hard enough.  There were two Tom's of Maine toothpaste choices - one with fluoride and one without.  Both for $4.18. There was one Tom's of Maine mouthwash, for $5.82.  A good portion of the Physician's Formula Organicwear makeup range was there - including the Tinted Moisturizer that I reviewed a few days ago for $9.93 (it was $11.99 at CVS).  And that, sadly, was it.  I couldn't find any shampoo, cleanser, moisturizer or anything like that.  I also scoured the women's clothing section hoping for some organic cotton items, but I couldn't see any.  I know they have organic cotton baby clothes, but I guess organic items haven't made it to the adult section yet.  [At least, not that I could see in my local store - I checked out when I got home, and they do have organic cotton jammies for women, and quite a few t-shirts for men and juniors as well as baby clothes.  They also had some cute tote bags.]

I do regularly buy organic food items at Walmart - they have a few Amy's Kitchen meals for $2.97 and YoBaby organic yogurts for $3.19 for six (the next cheapest place I have found these yogurts is Publix at $3.97).  There are also some organic vegetables as well, and I have also spotted some organic teas.  You just have to look carefully as you are going around the store.

Other green items - reusable bags are now available at the cash registers for $0.99 but they are not as good quality as some of the other supermarket reusable bags.  CFL bulbs are available, as are power strips so that you can plug your TV and other items in, and switch 'em off when you are not using them.

It's Not Green: Be Fine Exfoliating Cleanser

Here's one for the "save your money" files.  I was in my local CVS the other week, perusing the cleansers, and close to their exceedingly small group of "natural" skin care products was the "Be fine food skin care" range.  Needing a cleanser, and not having tried Be fine line before, I grabbed it.  I suppose I didn't study the ingredient list on the package, and as I no longer have the outer packaging I'm beginning to wonder if there was one there to start with!  I'm sure it must have had an ingredient list, but I guess I was in a hurry. The line touts itself as containing food-grade ingredients, no parabens, allergen free fragrance, vegetarian proteins, and that it has had no animal testing whatsoever.  So, even though I knew it wasn't claiming to be organic, I thought I'd give it a go as it seemed to be kind of green.  At $12.79 at least it fit into my price range.

Using it was fine - it is quite nicely exfoliating, and lathers very well. However, because it tries hard to be very foody, it feels like you are exfoliating your face with a brown sugar paste. Not that that's a bad thing, but it kept making me wonder why I didn't just go to the kitchen cabinet and make a brown sugar paste that would probably do the job as well.  For a lot less money.

It was only later that I went and checked all the ingredients.  For a start, it contains sodium laureth sulfate, which is a no-no in my book.  But hey, no wonder the product lathered well. Worse still, it also contains ingredients that I hadn't really come across before, and which I now know are nasty preservatives - one being methylisothiazolinone, which is apparently a neurotoxin.  Another is methylchloroisothiazolinone, and I found a website that claims it is an extremely potent allergen that "was responsible for an epidemic of contact sensitivity, in some geographical areas, in the 1980s and early 1990s".  

So clearly I was the victim of some green washing here.  They took out the parabens so that they could claim that the product was "paraben free" and replaced them with some equally nasty, if not nastier, preservatives. Shame on you, makers of Be fine!

Don't make the same mistake that I did!  Zero stars for this one.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Review: Scotts 20-Inch Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower #2000-20

Time for some gushing over a gardening tool. I love my Scott's manual lawn mower. It is so so easy to use, it is amazing. I bought a manual mower thinking that I would save a ton of money by cutting the grass myself (I was paying a yard guy to do it), cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and get a workout at the same time. Well, it turns out that I don't really get that much of a workout at all because the thing is so lightweight and so darn easy to use. And I am not the fittest, most buff girl out there. Far from it. I'm just an ordinary gal but I have no problem pushing this mower - it isn't like your grandpa's heavy old antique push mower.

I've got to say that it doesn't do as neat of a job as the gas-powered rotary mower that was being used - some types of skinny grass merely bend over when the mower goes over them, so they stick up straight. But, I guess part of the issue could also be that at the same time as switching mowers I stopped running the sprinklers unless absolutely necessary, so my yard is a bit more weedy than it used to be as some of the grass died off a bit. I also set the mower on a fairly high setting in order to allow the grass to root better and therefore more easily cope with having less water. So all of that probably factors in. Having said that, I really don't care. I have never needed to have a pristine lawn - as long as it's all green, that's all that matters to me. And I think the weeds give it character. What's so wrong with a little dollar weed, after all?

It's so quiet, and I love hearing that snicker-snicker sound of the blades turning. It also causes a few double-takes of people walking or driving past, and occasionally someone will come up and ask me about it when I'm mowing the front yard. So not only is it environmentally friendly, it's a conversation starter too!

Sadly, one of the back wheels has now fallen off (I've had this thing for about a year, maybe more). I should have realized that the nut was loose, but I didn't investigate the wobble that set in after a few months. However, it looks like an easy fix once I find a suitably sized nut. And the good thing is that the mower is still working just fine without the back wheel.

The mower is currently retailing for $113 at Amazon. I'm sure I paid about $90 for it (from the same place), so check around for pricing. It's very easy to maintain - just a squirt of WD40 every now and then. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be sharpening the blades at some point - I probably should, but they don't seem to need it yet.

I'm going with 4 stars for this. I was going to give it 5 stars, but what with the wheel falling off and the weedy yard, I'm not sure that I can. Of course, both of those things are probably due entirely to my own laziness and therefore 5 stars is probably more accurate. Let's split the difference and call it 4 and a half, then.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Review: Tom's of Maine Natural Deodorant - Calendula

I've spent a long time testing out natural deodorants. It seems like it's my holy grail of personal care products. Now, this is where I must confess that I'm not a true green frugalista, because if I was, I would make my own natural deodorant out of baking soda rubbed on the skin. Or wait, is it baking powder? Anyway, I'm not that good of a frugal gal - I like to buy my products, for the most part, not make them. And I like to spout my opinion - hence the blog. But you can be sure that if I do start trying to make my own, I shall report it here.

Sadly, many of the natural deodorants out there just don't seem to work for me, but I've come to the theory that with natural deodorants there are two factors at play - how well the odor absorbers or inhibitors actually work, and how the scent interacts with the smell of your sweat. Because you will sweat, being as there are no anti-perspirants in the natural deodorants. The smell factor will vary depending on your own body chemistry - for me, alas, lavender makes me stink. Somehow, lavender plus my sweat equals funk. But, after trying the very pricey Dr. Hauschka, and the not so very pricey Aubrey Organic's E Plus High C, both of which were quite good for a few weeks and then just seemed to stop working for me, I think I have final answer. The Tom's of Maine line has been reformulated with hops which seems to keep the odor control going much longer than it used to. I've tried the Apricot scent, which is passable but still at the end of the day leaves a little bit of skank going on. But I'm currently in love with Calendula.

I don't know what calendula is supposed to smell like - it's also known as marigold, and I don't recall marigold having any very memorable scent - a vague floweriness perhaps, mixed with a vague hint of antisepticness. So I can't tell you if this is a good representation of a calendula scent or not. But I can tell you that the deodorant also has lemongrass in it, and that gives it a lovely fresh citrusy-herby scent. It's not a strident lemongrass though - if anything I'd say it was a mixture of lemongrass with some lovely, sugary candied ginger and a hint of marigold. In fact, if they made a matching perfume, I'd happily wear it in the summer to give some welcome refreshment and escape from the heat. Having said that, I also don't think the scent interferes with other perfumes that you may want to wear - it might perhaps give you a bit more of a spicy, herby vibe to whatever you picked, but it certainly doesn't clash. Nor do I think it would freak out the perfume-sensitive. It is fairly subtle, but it is softly noticeable when you lift your arms up - for the first couple of hours after you put it on, that is.

And the main thing? This deodorant works. At least for now - given my previous history with natural deodorants just giving up the ghost on me, I should probably reserve judgment, but I figure I'll just come back and update this post if that happens. So far it's been about 4 weeks and it's still going strong. Four weeks in the middle of summer in the humid and hot south east U.S., I should add.

I give this one 5 stars.

Update: Sorry, I'm knocking this down to 4 stars. A review of the improved, long-lasting version is here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review: Physician's Formula Organic Wear Tinted Moisturizer

This is a lightweight tinted moisturizer that I got at my local CVS. It's currently retailing for $11.99 which is a bargain when you compare it to the stuff available at Whole Foods or Sephora. It doesn't include any parabens or other nasties that I can see, and I liked that the sunscreen component (SPF15) comes from titanium dioxide rather than a chemical sunscreen.

It has a pleasant smell, and goes on easily. I've got to say, though, that I don't find it all that moisturizing, nor do I find it offers very much coverage. I'd like one that is a bit more emollient, but that may be due to my skin starting to dry out as I age! It is perhaps, a tad thinner in consistency than I'd ideally like. As for coverage, it is, of course, a tinted moisturizer and not a foundation, so it's not supposed to completely cover all those imperfections. At best all I get is a bit of softening of the edges of blotches and things - perhaps you could describe it as putting the imperfections in soft focus. It is enough to allow me to leave the house on a Saturday morning without anything else and without feeling too self-conscious, but it's not enough for work. I usually wear a mineral foundation on top.

In all, I'm going to go with 4 stars on this one. I think it's definitely enough to make me want to buy another tube and keep it in the general rotation. I still can't quite believe that I am getting organic goodness for only $11.99. However, it probably won't stop me trying something else when the next latest and greatest thing comes out.

Update: I have spotted this at Walmart for $9.93 and Target for $9.94 - a big variation from the CVS price I quoted. It seems to be readily available at most of the drug and big box retailers, so shop around.

Update #2: I've had some reports of people developing an uncomfortable burning reaction to this. I am still using it daily with no problems, but please post comments if you have had an issue.