Block the Sun, Naturally: SPF Facial Moisturizer Roundup


100% Pure SPF Argan Oil Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 ($26.00,1.6 fl oz)*- I kind of swore off using any 100% Pure SPF Moisturizers from my terrible experience with the Pomegrante SPF 20 Moisturizer (ghastly-white cast, thick, heavy texture and hard to blend). When a generous package from 100% Pure landed on my doorstep with this SPF 30 version of the moisturizer in it, I thought maybe it was fate willing me to give it another try. Boy, am I glad I did.

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A Balanced Cleanse for the Body and Soul with Joulebody

Despite everyone rushing to do juice cleanses of all sorts, I’ve never really been a fan of the movement. I have a fast metabolism so I’m always eating or snacking on something to keep my stomach from rumbling and my appetite sated. (Okay, and also to prevent me from being too grumpy during the day.) I consider my eating and exercising habits to be pretty healthy overall yet I’ve also always been curious about the detoxifying and energizing benefits cleanses have been said to have. I just couldn’t see myself surviving on just liquids for a week or longer.

Enter Joulebody. I was first introduced to the local NYC-based company  at a recent bloggers meetup organized by Sarita where Joulebody products were generously provided for us to sample. Joulebody is a 1oo% organic and vegan cleansing program founded by Yvette Rose that involves both juice and healthy food as part of the plan. The program is a plant based, 75% raw foods diet; “food that is packed with essential healing nutrients that have medicinal restorative properties.” Joulebody cleanses will replenish and cleanse your body, as well as restart your metabolism. 

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Au Natural Factual: Neroli Oil

When I see neroli oil (Citrus aurantiumlisted as an essential oil ingredient in any product or mixture, I immediately think of bright flowers and exotic, sweet, calming fragrances. Doubly alluring as the oil itself is the unique way neroli oil is produced: acquired from bitter orange tree blossoms through water distillation. Pale yellow in color and similar in scent to bergamot and lime, neroli essential oil is used in facial toners for its antibacterial and emollient properties. Toners and facial products with neroli oil have also been used to fade acne scars, cleanse skin and improve skintone. Neroli oil’s distinct aroma and therapeutic effects have also been used as an anti-depressant and aromatherapy tool to calm anxiety.

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Brushing with Clay: Zion Health ClayBrite Natural Toothpaste Review


Have you ever thought to brush your teeth with clay? Me neither.

When California-based natural health company, Zion Health reached out to me to try some of their products, my curiosity centered around ClayBrite, their popular mint-flavored, non-fluoride toothpaste that contains clay minerals. I was most intrigued about claims that ClayBrite’s natural mineral ingredients “help heal gums, prevent cavities, and neutralize bad breath.” As someone who has sensitive gums, this caught my attention. Additionally, Zion Health maintains that these natural minerals get in between teeth and beneath gum layers to absorb and diminish bacteria, eliminate bad breath, and also whiten teeth. Xylitol and Green Tea extract prevents bleeding gums and plaque buildup.

I have to admit, I haven’t tried many natural toothpastes. The only natural toothpastes I’ve used have been Tom’s of Maine products and I never liked any of them. They never made my teeth feel clean enough or taste as fresh as when I used non-natural toothpastes. I was very interested to see if ClayBrite would make me want to put down my less-green toothpastes forever. (Tom’s toothpastes do indeed contain sodium lauryl sulfate which many people like to avoid.)


The brown, muddy color of the ClayBrite toothpaste is enough to make many people gag at first sight. I, however was pleased. Clay minerals, remember? The color doesn’t last though, as soon as you brush your teeth and spit out the product, the dark brown hue lightens and it doesn’t seem so abnormal to be sticking this in your mouth. The texture was malleable and soft though a bit grainier and stiffer than regular toothpastes. Overall, the formula didn’t seem much different to brush my teeth with.

I can say after using ClayBrite for many weeks, I love how gentle and effective it is at cleaning and maintaining my teeth. My teeth feel clean without feeling sore. Usually, my gums are easily irritated especially if I get a cold sore in my mouth, but ClayBrite made brushing my teeth painless and actually pleasant. I even believe this toothpaste have helped to strengthen my sensitive gums. I can’t say for sure if this has whitened my teeth overall, but I have noticed my teeth seem to be consistently whiter even after days of excessive tea-drinking.


The toothpaste’s mint flavor, derived from natural mint, stevia leaf extract, and grapefruit seed extract ingredients, leaves my breath feeling extremely fresh and retains a minty taste, something I enjoyed and didn’t expect from a natural toothpaste.

As for details about Calcium Montmorillonite, the toothpaste’s clay mineral ingredient, I inquired with Zion Health about what it was exactly, why it is a key ingredient, and where the company acquires it from. Here is part of their interesting response:

Calcium Montmorillonite comes from a remote region near Palm Desert, CA- Originally sold as a mineral supplement to astronauts in the 1960s-due to its high calcium content-this unique clay helped prevent bone decay.

Because of its high mineral content this special type of clay provides healthy nutrients to the body when consumed internally. Founder Haim Zion, discovered when he started drinking these minerals in powder form with water, he experienced immediate benefits to his sore, bleeding gums. Upon further research, he discovered this clay worked better than standard toothpastes and dentist recommended toothpastes for healing the gums, along with controlling cavities. He teamed with a group of natural health chemists to create a toothpaste formulation that had a pleasant flavor along with a proper amount of CM Clay to offer maximum benefits to the gums and teeth.

More details about this clay here: We get our clay from California Earth Minerals.

My own research did confirm that calcium montmorillonite has been used to aid astronauts suffering from calcium loss and bone decay due to the effects of weightlessness and other environmental factors in space. Calcium montmorillonite, also known as the “living clay” was also traditionally used by Native Americans healers as a internal and external healing agent. The mineral deposits originated from volcanic ash, minerals and eons of weathering. (Read more here.) Additionally, Zion Health’s ClayBrite Natural Toothpaste scored a low “1” rating in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database for overall health hazards.

I was really pleased with ClayBrite Natural Toothpaste and using it surpassed my expectations. Would I purchase this again? I think so! It’s certainly affordable: $7.49 for 3.2oz. at Adama Minerals or $5.59 at Vitacost. 

PLUS get $10 off orders of $35 or more and free shipping at Adama Minerals! Use code: “pleinvanity” at checkout.

Ingredients: Sorbitol, Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Calcium Montmorillonite Desert Clay , Hydrated Silica, Kaolin, Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (derived from coconut), Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate (derived from sodium salt), Stevia Extract, Purified Water, Grapefruit Extract, Xylitol, Green Tea Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Menthol, Spearmint Oil, Sodium Ascorbate, Calcium Ascorbate, Boron Citrate, Zinc Citrate

What are your thoughts on natural toothpastes? Would you try ClayBrite? Let me know if you have any natural toothpaste suggestions to try!


*Products were kindly provided to me for consideration. Reviews are based on my honest opinion and personal experience. I am never paid for my opinions. Post contains an affiliate link.

Au Natural Factual: Reishi Mushroom

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a love for mushrooms. While many people can’t stand the thought of eating mushrooms–my boyfriend blames the texture, a few of my friends can’t wrap their heads around eating “fungi”, I can’t get enough of these forest fixtures. Their varying textures, shape, smells, and even the way they grow in nature has fascinated me. My tongue begins to water when I think of the delicious traditional Chinese soups featuring savory mushroom bits that my mother and grandmother always made for me.

And what about a mushroom’s health benefits? Oh boy, don’t get me started! Ganederma lucidum, the Reishi mushroom (in Japanese) or “ling zhi” in Chinese, is the specific, iconic “red” mushroom most commonly used and commercially cultivated in East Asia and North America. Reishi mushroom is the most respected medicinal mushroom in Asia.

“Reishi mushroom is a fungus that some people describe as “tough” and “woody” with a bitter taste. The fruiting body (above-ground part) and mycelium (filaments connecting a group of mushrooms) are used as medicine.” (5)

In Ancient China, the reishi mushroom was revered by royalty as it was thought to be the “mushroom of immortality” and also used to help promote tranquility, thoughtfulness, and to improve memory. This type of mushrooms were also considered special for their unique and beautiful appearance; “Deep reddish brown and saucer-shaped, often emerging from a branch-like stem, its smooth upper surface looks lacquered when wet.” (2)

Often grown on old or dead tree trunks, reishi mushrooms were also traditionally ingested to prevent fatigue, asthma, insomnia, and cough. Disregarding its supposed mystical quality, the health-promoting effects of the reishi mushroom still plays an central role in the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. These health benefits have made using reishi mushroom popular within many Western medical and health communities.

“The active constituents are thought to include both beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes.” (4)
“Reishi mushroom contains chemicals that seem to have a variety of potentially beneficial effects, including activity against tumors (cancer) and beneficial effects on the immune system.” (5)

Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, reishi mushrooms help boost the immune system and is commonly used for reducing stress and preventing fatigue. It is often used to treat viral infections like the flu and lung diseases like bronchitis and asthma. There are also many claims that reishi mushrooms can prevent and aid in the abatement of many serious diseases. Many believe that reishi mushrooms can abate the effects of kidney disease, heart disease (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol), liver disease, and cancer. It has also been used for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, altitude sickness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), insomnia, stomach ulcers, poisoning, and herpes pain.

These health benefits also contribute to positive aspects when used in skincare products. The ganodermic acid and ling zhi-8 protein within Reishi mushrooms are said to contribute in aiding and maintaining the skin’s health, vitality, and youthful appearance. Reishi mushroom in skincare products is also beneficial in reducing inflammation, prevent skin damage from free radicals, and promote skin cell regeneration.

Today, reishi mushroom can be most commonly found as an extract, supplement or as an added ingredient. It was traditionally ingested in teas or infusions but can now be found added in everything from chocolate bars, candy, energy drinks, or skincare products.

“Some experts believe that Ganoderma lucidum promotes longevity and maintains vitality of the human body. Reishi’s major benefit appears to be its immunomodulating action, improvement of liver function, and improvement and restoration of the normal functions of the respiratory system. Antioxidant effects, which contribute to the overall well-being of patients, have been proposed.” (1)

If this specific fungi can improve one’s health in so many ways, perhaps the ancient Chinese were onto something with their claims that this fungi provides the key to immortality.

Have you ever tried any products containing reishi mushroom in them? What are your thoughts on this ingredient?

Some natural and organic beauty products containing reishi mushroom that have caught my eye:

*Foraged Fields- Face Cream, $15
*LuLu & Max- Face Lift Cream, $28
*Tela Beauty Organics- Balance Shampoo, $36


Images: Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, Healthy Home Gardening, Recapo

Au Natural Factual: Potassium Sorbate

I’ve been trying out some new natural skincare products lately. As always, I was skeptical of the claims that the products were totally natural because of some confusing, uncommon ingredients I needed to look-up first. To me, potassium sorbate just sounded a bit suspicious. So what is it and is it really a “natural” ingredient?

Potassium sorbate is a chemical compound produced as a result of a chemical reaction between potassium hydroxide and sorbic acid. It is the potassium salt of sorbic acid, a naturally occurring antimicrobial compound used as a preservative.

“Potassium sorbate is a salt of sorbic acid which is naturally found in some fruits” [3]

This compound appears as a white or white-yellowish crystalline powder whose slightly high acidic nature accounts for its antimicrobial properties.

Potassium sorbate is commonly used as a preservative in food products due to its ability to inhibit microbial growth thus reducing the risk of disease and increasing shelf life of food items. Food items such as “dairy products, baked goods, beverages, cured fish and meats, vegetable and fruits as well as confections”[1] are products for which potassium sorbate is often used. Potassium sorbate also plays a role in the production of wine. After the fermentation process, active yeast still exists within the wine. Potassium sorbate is added to keep the wine’s flavor and body as well as to inhibit further yeast growth.

Within personal care products, potassium sorbate can be found in many shampoos, conditioners, lotions and cosmetics to prevent the growth of molds and fungi and to extend shelf life.

Regarding industrial uses, potassium sorbate is also used in improving the gloss of certain coatings, in manufacturing lubricants and plasticizers as well as perfects the milling characteristics of rubber. Potassium sorbate is inexpensive to produce, is easily metabolized by the human body, doesn’t accumulate in the body or environment and has a low toxicity in humans.

Through extensive testing and studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed potassium sorbate safe for use as a food preservative. There have been many concerns regarding potassium sorbate yet most studies found that the only legitimate health concern is rare allergic reaction or sensitivity resulting in migraines or diarrhea.

“Some sites express concern that potassium sorbate might be carcinogenic, neurotoxic, or an endocrine disruptor. However,[…] according to an exhaustive review published in the International Journal of Toxicology, the findings reveal: Potassium sorbate, at concentrations up to 10%, is practically non-irritating to the eye and only slightly irritating to skin. Potassium sorbate has been tested for mutagenic effects[…]The weight of evidence indicates that it is not mutagenic. Potassium sorbate at 0.1% in the diet or 0.3% in drinking water for up to 100 weeks was not carcinogenic. No developmental effects have been observed. Formulations containing up to 0.5% were not significant primary or cumulative irritants and not sensitizers. Currently, the legitimate health concern with this ingredient is a rare allergic reation or sensitivity (that could lead to migraines or diarrhea). But even that type of reaction can vary from formulation to formulation, so some products might cause irritation, while others don’t.” [3]

The EWG’s Skin Deep database ranks potassium sorbate with a score of 3 due to data gaps and the evidence that it may produce organ system toxicitiy (non-reproductive) and is a human skin toxicant or allergen.

“Potassium sorbate is well-tolerated in most people, being easily metabolized. Allergic reactions are rare.” [1]

As always, maintain extra care or caution if you are using skincare or other personal care products with potassium sorbate especially if you have sensitive skin. I choose to use certain products with naturally-derived preservatives because I believe that to a certain point, there is a need to keep products safe and bacteria-free.

I think The Honest Company’s explanation for using potassium sorbate and other natural preservatives says it best:

“Most personal care products are made with a lot of water and a variety of nutrients (consider all of the natural oils and botanicals in Honest products!) which makes an incredibly hospitable breeding ground for microorganisms. What’s worse – the product might smell and look just fine, but be swarming with bacteria or fungi that are dangerous to your health. Effective preservatives are vital for ensuring safety!” [3]

Do you use any products that contain potassium sorbate? What is your opinion on preservatives or alternative preservatives?

Sources/For More Info: [1] Livestrong  [2] New Health Guide   [3] The Honest Company Blog [4] Wisegeek  [5] Environmental Working Group

Image source: Epochemical

Au Natural Factual: Bismuth Oxychloride


I’ve seen this ingredient listed in a few natural products before and I’ve always been curious due to its complex name, what exactly is bismuth oxychloride?

Used in cosmetics since the time of the ancient Egyptians, bismuth oxychloride is a pearly, white pigment used to give products a lustrous, iridescent sheen and also used because of its fine, powdery texture that adheres well to skin. You can find bismuth oxychloride in many mineral-based makeup products today like face powders, eye shadows and even in nail polish.

“Bismuth oxychloride was permanently listed by the FDA as a coloring agent in 1977 and as a synthetic ingredient.” -Paula’s Choice

Bismuth oxychloride is an inorganic compound of bismuth, which is found naturally in the rare mineral, bismoclite. While bismuth occurs naturally in bismoclite, the rare number of these minerals presents a production challenge. “To create the high amounts of bismuth needed by U.S. manufacturers, bismuth is also produced as a by-product from refining lead, tin, copper, silver, and gold ores. Once separated from these elements, it has to go through a long process of refining to make it safe for use in cosmetics.” (Source: Annmarie Gianni Skincare)

To get a little more technical, bismuth oxychloride is created by combining bismuth, which is also a by-product of lead and copper metal refining, with chloride (chlorine compound) and water.



There are many claims that bismuth oxychloride is a more natural, pure and healthier alternative to using talc, however, bismuth oxychloride seldom occurs in nature due to it’s inorganic origins. Bismuth oxychloride is also heavier and more brittle than talc.

Some concerns for using bismuth oxychloride in cosmetics and personal care products are largely that it is a skin irritant. Many people, especially those with sensitive skin, react to bismuth oxychloride due to its crystalline chemical structure which can poke at skin and get stuck in pores. Itching, rashes, blackheads, whiteheads, postules and even cystic acne may result.

“This ingredient requires a lot of refining to get rid of traces of lead. In the U.S., cosmetics have to meet certain standards for bismuth [oxy]chloride, but in other countries, those regulations may not be as strict, which increases the risk of bismuth oxychloride that may be contaminated with potentially toxic ingredients.” -Annmarie Gianni Skincare

The EWG’s Skin Deep database lists bismuth oxychloride with a score of 0 for overall health concerns and also due to limited data available. Though bismuth oxychloride may not be as terrible an ingredient as others, (there is no speculation it causes cancer or other serious health concerns) it is good to be aware of where your ingredients come from and the possible risks it can have on your skin. I personally have quite sensitive and reactive skin so I would stay away from any products that may have bismuth oxychloride in them. I also do not feel comfortable with this ingredient due to the possibilities of its inorganic sourcing.

Do you currently use or have you used any products with bismuth oxychloride? Do you have a favorite product or company with bismuth oxychloride-free products?

Popular mineral-based makeup products that contain bismuth oxychloride:

BareMinerals Original Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15

Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel

Too Faced Boudoir Eyes Eyeshadow Palette

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Nail Lacquer

Hourglass Cosmetics Ambient Lighting Powder

Mineral makeup companies with bismuth oxychloride-free products:

Afterglow Cosmetics

Alima Pure

Honeybee Cosmetics

Lily Lolo

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Resources: Afterglow Cosmetics, Annmarie Gianni Skincare, Environmental Working Group, Paula’s Choice, Wikipedia    Photo sources: Impact Colors Inc, Sterling MineralsWebmineral 

Au Natural Factual: Lemongrass

Au Natural Factual is back for 2014! Today, we’re talking about Lemongrass, an ingredient I have been loving lately in my hair and body products. It has also always been a favorite scent of mine.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus) is a perennial plant known for it’s many medicinal and therapeutic benefits and is indigenous to many areas of South Asia. Reported medicinal benefits of lemongrass are used in treating digestive problems, high blood pressure, fever, body pain, the common cold, cough and exhaustion. Lemongrass is also known for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant and astringent properties.

Used when dry, lemongrass can be steeped to make tea, used as medicine as well as flavoring for food. The plant is commonly used as an ingredient in popular South Asian cuisine and is commonly found in soaps and cosmetics as a fragrance. With it’s lemony, citrus scent, lemongrass can also be extracted as an essential oil and applied topically or when used in aromatherapy, often inhaled for muscle pain relief. It is also said that lemongrass has rubefacient properties which may improve blood circulation.

The chemical composition of lemongrass is also interesting in understanding the basis for its many health benefits and natural characteristics:

The main chemical component found in lemongrass is citral, an aromatic compound, also known as lemonal. The compounds myrcene, citronellal, geranyl acetate, nerol and geraniol are found in varying quantities in Citral. Myrcene, geraniol and nerol contribute to lemongrass’ strong fragrance, citronella acts as an insecticide and geranyl acetate is another flavoring agent. –

The presence of Vitamin A in lemongrass can also have benefits for skin. Lemongrass helps to treat acne, brighten dark spots and prevent oily skin. The herb’s astringent and antibacterial properties are also good at reducing skin bacteria and infection. Lemongrass has also been thought to improve poor body odor by controlling excessive sweating.

Some popular, natural products containing lemongrass: 

Have you used lemongrass in any products or in food? What are your favorite products or methods using lemongrass?

Sources: HealthlineHealthers,WebMD 

Image sources: 1, 2

Au Natural Factual: Elderberry


Elderberry or elder (Sambucus nigra, S. Canadensis) has traditionally been used on the skin to treat wounds or taken as medicine to treat respiratory illnesses like the cold and flu. Elder is a large deciduous shrub or small tree that grows in wet or dry soil in sunny locations. Native to Europe, Africa and parts of Asia, it is also widespread in North America. The flowers and berries are the components used for medicinal purposes. The elder flowers and berries must be cooked before they are collected to be used. Using raw and unripe berries can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and can be poisonous.

Many beneficial properties in elderberry have led to the belief that the flowering plant has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties. Elderberry has been used for sinuses, nasal and chest congestion, back, leg and nerve pain, as well as for chronic fatigue syndrome.

It is a great natural remedy for injuries, infection and various skin conditions. Elderberry has also been proven to boost the immune system and improve health due to its many beneficial components such as bioflavonoids, tannins, amino acids, carotenoids, vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin c. As a result of it’s many health benefits, some people also prepare elder flowers as food or use the flowers for tea and the berries for wine, jelly or jam. Taken internally, elder is said to cleanse the body and strengthen one’s immune system.

Elderberry/elder flower is also a popular ingredient used in personal care products for its natural benefits on skin and hair. Due to its emollient and mild astringent properties, elder is beneficial in calming sunburn, reducing eye puffiness or enlarged pores. It is also a great aftershave tonic for men and can be used as a calming bath herb. For hair, elder provides moisture and nourishment to dry hair and can be found in many shampoos, conditioners or hair rinses.

Elder blossoms are often found as an ingredient in facial steams, cleansers, scrubs, lotions, moisturizers, soaps and toners. Elderflower water, regarded as a natural beauty secret of many women, is traditionally used as a facial toner.


Sources: Herb WisdomPangea Organics, University of Maryland Medical Center, Web MD, Wild Edibles, Wikipedia

Images: Mother Earth Living, Carolina Nature, Food and Hearth (Cool elderberry recipes!)

Au Natural Factual: Burdock Root

Burdock is a biennial plant, also classified as a common weed, that is most recognized for its stout growth and leaves containing prickly burrs. Due to its ability to grow relatively tall, the burdock plant (scientific name: Arctium lappa) has deep roots that are brownish green in color. The root, leaf and seed are used to make medicine and are sometimes eaten as food. Burdock root extract is typically used in skincare and hair products. This herb is native to Europe and Asia though is naturalized throughout North America. In traditional Chinese medicine, the burdock root was commonly used to treat many illnesses.

Burdock contains chemicals that might have activity against bacteria and inflammation. Burdock root consists of  carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins, and fatty oils which explain the plant’s healing properties. Burdock root has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and demulcent effects on the body and skin. In skincare, burdock root is added to many facial steams, cleansers, lotions, toners and salves. The properties of burdock root help effectively treat skin ailments such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. 

Burdock root is also used externally to treat painful joints, inflammation and often thought to purify the blood. Burdock root is also added to shampoos, conditioners and hair rinses especially for its beneficial effect on dandruff.

Recent studies have shown that burdock root also contains phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin, all powerful antioxidants. Various cultures believe eating the leaves or roots of the burdock plant help to cleanse the bloodstream, prevent cancer, to treat high blood pressure and other common illnesses and to keep the body healthy.

Burdock root has also achieved culinary recognition due to its many health benefits when ingested. The plant contains dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, amino acids and is low in calories. Common in Japanese and Korean cuisine, burdock root leaves can be strained for tea, root or leaves added to a soup or drink, or the roots are boiled and braised like a potato.

Sources: Amazing Herbs, Edible Wild Food, Pangea Organics, Web MD, Wikipedia     Images: Wikipedia

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