What’s in Your Shampoo?

shampoo

After a day in the jungle that’s been the American Southeast this summer, nothing feels better than lathering up greasy hair with clean-smelling shampoo. However, like (some of) the best things in life, this practice probably isn’t good for you, largely because of the makeup of many shampoos you might find in your local drugstore. So what can you do to avoid potentially harmful chemicals short of letting your hair devolve into a stringy mess of unmanageable filth? While many swear by letting hair regulate itself, rinsing it occasionally and letting natural oils nourish the strands, my (very) long and (very, very) straight hair just does not allow for this method. My attempts at washing my hair less go something like this:

Day One After Washing — OK-looking side braid with questionable-looking bangs

Day Two After Washing — Questionable-looking side braid with pinned back I-have-given-up-on-you bangs

Day Three After Washing — Does not exist*; let’s be honest, I barely ever even last until day two

(*exceptions: sleeping through alarm, being lazy)

Upon doing some shampoo-related research, it seems that there are in fact alternatives to mainstream shampoos that treat your hair more gently and keep the harsher chemicals at bay. First, let’s look at the things you might want to avoid when lathering up:

  • Sodium and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfates — These are the ingredients in shampoo that attract dirt and oil, washing them away. They also create the foam that many of us are used to, but which serves no actual purpose in cleansing hair. These chemicals have come under scrutiny due to the fact that they can be irritating to eyes and skin and can be harsh on hair, sometimes creating breakage and damage.
  • Fragrance — Present in most shampoos, “fragrance” in mass produced products is essentially chemicals created in a lab to emulate natural smells. In fact, when you see this ingredient listed on your product, it can refer to up to 4,000 different chemicals, including acetone (yes, like nail polish remover), formaldehyde and alcohol. Like you might have already guessed, these ingredients aren’t great for your hair, stripping it of essential oils and maybe even causing damage to the hair follicle itself.
  • Propylene Glycol — Allowing the shampoo ingredients to penetrate deep into the hair shaft, propylene glycol serves the purpose of making hair look shinier and healthier. However, over time this chemical has the potential to ravage the hair follicle and damage the integrity of each individual hair.

While the above information may make you want to promptly remove 90% of your shower’s contents, remember that these ingredients are more likely to cause harm over long periods of use, so your best bet may be to use up what you have and then try some of the more gentle shampoos free of major irritants to see how they work for you. In my search to find more natural shampoos, these are some that look worth trying:

1.  Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash

  • Pros: Yes, this is technically for babies, but that just makes it all the more simple, gentle and great for sensitive skin. Burt’s Bees cites this product as being 98.9% natural and is sulfate, phthalate, petrochemical and paraben-free
  • Cons: Still contains fragrance

2.  Intelligent Nutrients Organic Hair Cleanser

  • Pros: A mild cleanser safe for color-treated hair, this product is free of sulfates, silicone and parabens; cool-looking bottle!
  • Cons: Contains fragrance, although the fragrance is a “certified organic natural aroma”; and at $29, this cleanser is not exactly cheap

3.  John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo

  • Pros: This daily shampoo is said to gently cleanse hair without the use of sodium lauryl sulfate; it is fragrance-free
  • Cons: Has a long list of complicated-sounding ingredients; however, many of the ingredients are certified organic

4.  Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo

  • Pros: Suitable for all hair types, this shampoo contains no laurel sulfates, is cruelty free and employs certified organic botanical ingredients
  • Cons: The tingling sensation and strong tea tree smell may be off-putting to some people; some reviews report it as “drying”

What’s your favorite shampoo (all natural or otherwise)? Do you think it’s important to avoid the harsher chemicals? 

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Have You Completed Your Summer Bucket List?

While the weather may suggest otherwise, the dog days of summer have come and gone, and many kids have retired their swimsuits for back-to-school clothing. With less than a month until the season officially ends, let’s reflect on everything summer of 2012 had to offer: sweltering heat broke records, the presidential campaigns began to dominate the news, and the Summer Olympics captivated our imaginations.

I know I haven’t made it to the pool as many times as I’d like or read as many page-turners as I’d intended, but all in all, the past few months have been filled with enough warm nights around friends, weekend getaways and family cookouts for the summer to be a success in my book. What about everyone else?

Until September 21st, when fall officially begins, are there any last activities you’d like to fit in? Check out the below summer bucket list for inspiration. Happy (almost) September, everyone!

2012 Summer Bucket List (Raleigh-Durham Edition! Explore comparable activities in your area):

Have you…

  • Judged a book by its cover, checked it out from the library – and ended up loving it?
  • Swam the length of the pool in one breath?
  • Tried grilling fruit?
  • Toured a local brewery? Big Boss Brewery recommended!
  • Visited a lake and gone fishing?
  • Caught up with a childhood friend and reminisced about summers past?
  • Built something from scratch (a set of shelves, cupcakes, a website, or whatever else!)?
  • Learned a completely useless fact?
  • Checked out the delicious food from a food truck?
  • Created your own DIY Salt Scrub – and gifted it to friends?
  • Visited a cool museum? NC Museum of Natural Sciences is free!
  • Roadtripped to a new location, however mundane?
  • Enjoyed live music & beautiful weather at a fun outdoor venue?
  • Watched an old movie? Charade is my absolute favorite!
  • Spent an entire day just wasting time?

“Mirror Fast” Calls for No Focus on Appearance

Anyone who flips on a television, follows a celebrity news website or even just browses magazine covers while standing in line at the grocery store knows that when it comes to beauty, we celebrate an unrealistic vision of perfection. While we may subliminally realize that it is standard practice to Photoshop magazine covers and cosmetic ads, it’s hard to not fall into self scrutiny when gazing at an ad for mascara featuring a pore-less, unblemished complexion.

For many, the pressures of being beautiful and attaining perfection may occasionally lead to an obsession with appearance, even though objectively we know that our worth lies much deeper than the skin we’re trying so desperately to smooth, plump, brighten or unwrinkle. It is common practice to gaze at our faces while getting ready for the day or performing our nightly beauty routines, so I was naturally interested when I stumbled upon a movement of beauty bloggers to “fast” from their mirrors for days, weeks, months, or even years at a time.

Essentially, these women decided to avoid looking at their reflections in any possible way to see how (and if) it affected the way they thought about themselves, their appearances, and their relationships with others.

While I admire the women undertaking this experiment and find the general idea to definitely be an endeavor worthy of discussion, I’m not so sure that I could (or would want to) do it myself. Although I do think that my (and probably many others’) beauty routine and general time/money/effort spent on appearance could and probably should be reduced, I also find a sense of joy and satisfaction in pampering myself and stepping into the day feeling styled and put together.

In other words, I like my beauty products and my getting ready process, and while they’re not (and shouldn’t be) everything I am, our appearances and the way we sculpt our looks is a part of our identities, whether we like it or not. This is not to say that I don’t sometimes fall into the shallow realms of vanity, and it’s not to say that scaling back and totally focusing on inward value wouldn’t be constructive. But to create an all-encompassing acceptance and love for self, we need to embrace every bit of who we are, inside and out.

What do you think? Could you live without a mirror for a month (or a year)?

Check out the blogs of some of the women who have:

The Beheld

Mirror, Mirror…OFF The Wall.

Knowledge to Fill Awkward Silences: Facts About Soap

Here at Snowy Owl Cove, we’re passionate about all of our skin care products, but have a special affinity to the items that started it all, our all natural soaps. There is just something about the process of creating a perfectly compact bar of sweet smelling cleanliness, knowing it will help someone begin the morning or wash off the stresses of the day at night that is incredibly satisfying. And there is also the cool feeling of being part of a long tradition of soap making that has stretched back for thousands of years (the first literary reference to soap used for cleansing was by Greek physician Galen in the second century A.D.)

For inquiring minds, I’ve compiled a few interesting facts about this basic, everyday, yet extraordinary substance:

  • The first known soaps were created by boiling animal fat on a wood fire. The earliest known users of soap were either the Celts or the Phoenicians.
  • Early soaps were usually used for washing clothes or curing animal hides. The Romans, however, were known to use soaps as a part of bathing and spread this usage throughout Europe.
  • The soap making process stayed about the same until mass production methods were introduced in the late 18th century. Some of the large soap manufacturers, such as Pears Soap, date back to this time period (Pears Soap was founded in 1789).
  • Mass produced bar soap that you may buy in the grocery or drugstore is mostly detergent, which is why it bubbles up so much.

And one bonus fact…

  • Murphy’s Oil Soap is the most commonly used cleanser to wash elephants!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Easy Heat-Free, Damage-Free Hairstyles

Michelle Phan’s “bag curls” create beautiful, damage-free results.

If you’re anything like me, simply reading about how to execute a hairstyle might result in a wasted 15 minute session in front of the mirror followed by a frustrated admission of defeat (read: throwing hair up into a quick ponytail in order to avoid being late for work).

I’m not naturally hair savvy, which is why YouTube hair tutorials have transformed the way I and everyone else without inbred superhuman braiding abilities are able to learn how to curl, twist and smooth hair to perfection.

Some of the most innovative videos I’ve seen lately are the ones involving beautiful styles without the use of damaging heat styling tools, such as blow dryers, curlers or straighteners. Not only do these styles keep hair in its naturally shiny, bouncy, healthy state, but they also require little effort, and in the case of creating curls, may last for several days. Some of my favorite videos include:

What heat-free styles have you picked up from YouTube? Let us know!

Health & Beauty Wisdom From the Olympic Elite

 

When it comes to the Olympics, even skin tone, creaseless eye shadow and shiny hair hardly matter as much as making the goal, landing the dismount or crossing the finish line. Interestingly, however, and sometimes amazingly so, Olympians often manage to look fresher and more put-together than I do after a 30 minute treadmill session. And of course, in some sports, such as synchronized swimming, vibrant makeup and a costumed appearance is an important theatrical element of each routine.

So while appearance is secondary to the amazing physical talents of these athletes, taking a look at the techniques used by Olympians is nonetheless an interesting lesson in how it’s possible to look great in even the most extreme conditions. In honor of the last few days of the Olympics, let’s take a look at some of the methods used by these elite athletes:

  • Synchronized Swimming: To keep hair in place during their intensive routines, swimmers comb unflavored jello into their hair and twist it into a tight bun. When jello mixes with the water of the pool, it creates a paste and keeps hair in place (but is also very tough to remove and may take several showers to completely wash out). To keep eyeshadow from smudging off underwater, swimmers often use chapstick as a primer.
  • Field & Track: While most runners subscribe to a minimal makeup routine while performing, a tinted moisturizer is often used to ward off harmful rays, and a waterproof mascara can be a hassle-free way to leave a face looking its best.
  • Swimming: Despite wearing a swim cap (or often two), swimmers often suffer from dry, brittle hair. Therefore, many of these athletes apply a deep conditioner to their locks under their swim caps during races to avoid substantial damage.
  • Gymnastics: A large dose of strong-hold hairspray is key for keeping fly-aways out of gymnasts’ eyes. More than other athletes, women gymnasts often go all out with a full face of waterproof makeup, ensuring a performance-focused face ready for bright lights and cameras.
  • Rhythmic Gymnastics: With hair pulled back tight for practices and performances, these athletes know the importance of hair masks and a balm for split ends to keep hair looking smooth and healthy. Russian Evgeniya Kanaeva describes applying lemon juice ice cubes to her face to wake up and rejuvenate her complexion after long days in the gym.

What Olympic sport do you love watching? As the games draw to a close, let’s all agree that our athletes have looked, and more importantly, performed amazingly this year!

Frazzled From Summer Travel? Bounce Back with DIY Treatments

Via: thewanderingwanderluster.com

Via: thewanderingwanderluster.com

 

I just returned from a wonderful, fun-filled and entirely draining week in the beautiful city of Chicago. While I enjoy the kind of vacation involving beachside napping as much as the next person, I also love the hectic exhilaration of spending days on end sight-seeing, flavoring new foods, catching a live show and browsing hole-in-the-wall boutiques for the perfect surprise presents to bring friends back home.

We usually envision ourselves returning from vacation rejuvenated, ready to tackle the piles of work that have stacked up in our absence, with slightly fewer bags under our eyes. Of course, after running around the city under a blazing sun for a week, compiled with the joys of public transportation and navigating O’Hare airport, I’ve naturally returned more frazzled than before I left. And I’m just going to guess that it was some sort of city toxin/airplane dryness combination that has left my skin dull and hair frizzy.

Are you feeling the effects of mid-summer skin, hair and body stress? For me, it’s the perfect time to treat myself to a night of all-natural DIY beauty treatments (while doing loads and LOADS of post-trip laundry, of course). Here’s what’s on the menu:

1.  Carrot & Honey Face Mask

  • What it does: This mask is perfect for rejuvenating tired skin since carrots are full of antioxidants that help fight free radicals (think: city smog) that cause your skin to look less radiant, and honey is a great natural antibacterial cleanser and moisturizer. This easy recipe also includes witch hazel (tones and cleanses pores), cucumber juice (soothes irritation) and lemon juice (contains vitamin C; plumps skin), which all work together to help your skin rebound from post-travel dullness.
  • What you’ll need: 1/2 cup cooked mashed carrots, 1/4 cup honey, 1 teaspoon witch hazel, 1 tablespoon cucumber juice and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.
  • What you’ll need to do: Find the freshest ingredients possible; this will ensure that they’re full of the powerful antioxidants you’re after. Start by mashing the carrots (bring water to a boil, reduce heat and add carrots, and allow to cook covered for about 20 minutes or until they are tender; then simply mash the carrots into a smooth consistency). Next, combine ingredients in a bowl and mix together until consistency is thick and pasty. Massage and layer it onto skin and allow for it to sit for 25 minutes or longer. Rinse off and follow with a non-alcoholic toner (witch hazel is great as a toner by itself!) and apply a light moisturizer.

2.  Rosemary & Lemon Foot Soak

  • What it does: For all of us who strongly regret our footwear choices after extensive walking on trips, this soak can be a lifesaver. The rejuvenating properties of lemon, combined with the soothing and calming qualities of rosemary make for the perfect (and aromatic) foot soaking experience. This recipe also includes oat flour, which reduces inflammation, rashes, and works as a powerful moisturizer.
  • What you’ll need: 2 drops lemon essential oil, 2 drops rosemary essential oil, and 4 tablespoons organic oat flour. Note: Essential oils can be found at most whole grocery stores or health food stores.
  • What you’ll need to do: Add ingredients to a warm water foot bath. (It doesn’t have to be fancy! A small plastic tub would work). Soak feet for 15 to 20 minutes. For added moisture, rub on some hand or foot cream afterwards (or alternatively, have someone nice massage it in).

3.  Coconut & Avocado Hair Mask

  • What it does: Both coconut and avocado are full of fats needed by hair to look shiny, soft, bouncy and healthy. When applied from roots to ends, these ingredients can help smooth hair at the cuticle and repair the appearance of split ends.
  • What you’ll need: 1 large avocado, mashed; 1 tablespoon solid coconut oil (I get mine at Trader Joe’s); 1 tablespoon aloe juice; and 1 teaspoon jojoba oil.
  • What you’ll need to do: Combine ingredients with either a spoon, or for a smoother consistency, with a food processor. Apply to damp hair from roots to ends as evenly as possible and cover with a shower cap to avoid too much drip-age. Let sit on hair for 30-45 minutes and rinse, wash and style as usual.

4.  Vitamin E Cuticle Soak

  • What it does: This one is simple. As you probably know, vitamin E is fundamental in delivering smoother, healthier skin, and cuticles are no exception. Combined with a powerful hand lotion, your nails will be looking great in time for the weekend!
  • What you’ll need: A few drops of Vitamin E, which is available in most grocery stores.
  • What you’ll need to do:  Simply add a few teaspoons of the oil to a warm bowl of water and soak your hands for 10-15 minutes. Shea butter is also great for rough cuticles, so try finding a hand lotion containing this ingredient for maximum soothing power.

Happy summer travels, everyone! Do you have a trick to help you recharge after a tiring trip? Let us know!

10 Spa Treatments Made from Around Your Kitchen

Via: glamour.com

Via: glamour.com

Let’s face it, spa treatments can be expensive, time consuming and full of chemicals. You may even find that these work better than your favorite expensive brands. Get your girls together, and have a spa day this summer. These ten are made from around your kitchen at home:

BODY

Brown Sugar Lemony Body Scrub:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 tbsp of honey
2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp of your favorite essential oil (bergamot for energy, eucalyptus or spearmint for stress relief and lavender or jasmine for something relaxation)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until it turns into a paste
Apply to moist skin in circular motion using your fingertips to help skin cells slough off faster
Rinse off with warm water
Apply your favorite moisturizer
Results: smooth, soft glowing skin.

Milk Foot Soak:

Add 4 cups of warmed whole milk
2 tablespoons of Epsom Salt and 6 drops of your favorite essential oil
Soak for 20 minutes.
Use the Brown Sugar Lemony Body Scrub to remove dead skin on feet.

Invigorating Coffee Scrub:
Coffee contains Magnesium and Vitamin E. It also acts as an antibacterial, exfoliating and stimulating agent:

Brew a fresh pot of coffee
3 tablespoons of the fresh grounds
1 tablespoon of salt
Mix in a bowl
Scrub mixture over body within 20 minutes of brewing (before oxidation occurs)

HAIR

Avocado Conditioning Mask:

Mash an avocado (two for long hair) in a bowl with a fork until it is a thick, rich paste
Add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance (optional)
Spread the paste on the hair from the root to the ends
Leave on for 20 minutes
shampoo out and rinse out
Results: shiny, smooth, stronger, moisturized hair and added vitality to dull, dry hair.

Olive Oil Deep Hair Conditioning Mask:

Beat two eggs (three for long hair)
Add in three tablespoons of olive oil
Add your favorite essential oils for fragrance (optional.)
Apply a liberal amount to hair from root to tip
Wrap hair in warm towel and rest for about 30 minutes
After you rinse, you will notice how soft, shiny and manageable your hair will be
How Often? Do once a month (twice for dry hair)

Natural Blonde Highlights:
For natural blonde highlights:

Add 1/4-cup lemon juice (natural bleach) to 3/4-cup water and
Rinse your hair with the mixture
Apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner
Sit in the sun until your hair dries
For maximum effect: repeat once daily for up to a week.

TEETH

Strawberry Bleach Mask:
This natural mixture will remove any stains and discoloration on your teeth:

Crush one ripe strawberry
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
Apply the mixture on teeth with toothbrush,  let it set for 5 minutes
Brush with your regular toothpaste
How Often: Once a week.

FACE

Honey Oats Face Scrub:

Combine 1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely ground almonds
2 tablespoons dry oatmeal and some lemon juice (or yogurt to a luxurious and exfoliating facial scrub)
Massage mixture gently onto face
Rinse with warm water.
Afterwards: Use your favorite moisturizer.

Yogurt & Honey Mask:
This mixture moisturizes, hydrates and soothes the skin. Honey can be used as a minor acne treatment:

Mix 1-part plain yogurt and 1-part honey
Apply to clean, moist face
Let it set for 10-15 minutes
Rinse well with warm water.

Banana Facial Cream:

Mash 1/2 of a ripe banana until creamy
Apply on face – leave for 15-20 minutes.
Rinse with warm water and cold water to close pores
Pat dry