Saturday, June 10, 2017

Currently Used Products

Last updated: 6/10/17

On this page I will keep track of all the beauty products I currently use. For now, it's a bit sparse as I slowly replace my horribly unclean products with cleaner ones.

I've included the EWG ratings (when available) as well as where to buy the product.

Body
  • Lotion: Aveeno Active Naturals - Daily Moisturizing Lotion 
  • Deodorant: Native 
    • EWG - not on EWG, but all found ingredients are 1
    • Native
  • Sunscreen: 
  • Hand soap: 

Face (non-makeup)
  • Face wash:
  • Hydration: Batty's Bath - Hydra Healing Skin Rescue Gel
  • Moisturizer: Batty's Bath - Daily Detox (Primer) Facial Moisturizer
  • Mask: Batty's Bath - Charcoal Detox Mask
  • Note: facial cleansing products are from Batty's Bath detox kit
  • Eye makeup remover:
  • Eye cream:
  • Eye lash serum: 
  • Sunscreen: 

Makeup
  • Foundation: 
  • Concealer (under eye): NYX Cosmetics - Dark Circle Concealer
  • Powder (translucent):
  • Mascara: Physicians Formula - Organic Wear Mascara
  • Eye shadow:

Shower
  • Shampoo: 
  • Conditioner: 
  • Leave-in:
  • Body wash: 
House
  • Laundry detergent: 
  • Fabric softener:
  • Dish soap: 
  • Dishwasher detergent:
  • General cleaner:

My Chemical Detox - Skin Deep database

After making the decision to go cosmetically "clean" I almost immediately overwhelmed myself. I started, as I said in my last post, by putting together a list of ingredients to look out for in products. Unfortunately, I knew that if I took the time to research every ingredient on that list to know *why* I should avoid it and then validate those findings I'd never make any changes, so for the time being I made the assumption that these people know what they're talking about.

Equipped with this list I made my way to the store. If a product had an ingredient on the list I put it back on the shelf. I was specifically in the "natural" aisle so I really didn't think it would take too long and I'd have a fairly large choice of options. Um…no. I admit that I didn't look at ALL the products available, but it took a good 20-30 minutes to find a face wash and night moisturizer that did fairly well when compared to my list. That's way too long in my opinion, but I was still pumped. I was on my way to being clean and healthy!

My excitement (and pride in myself for making the clean choice), didn't last long, though. You see, in my mind, I typically equate "clean" products with being better working products (when compared to "not so clean" versions). Um…no. Better for you? Very likely. Better working on your skin? Not always.

Now, I completely understand that the clear-ness of your face is decided by many different factors - what you eat, genetics, hormones, your skincare regimen, etc. But in my mind, the easiest thing to blame, and change, is your skincare products and routine. Which is why I imagined my acne (yes, I'm in my late 30s and have acne…so fun!) would clear right up when I started using clean products. Um…no. But, based on my first shopping experience, how was I ever going to find a clean product that worked for my face?! Sigh.

It was at this point that I came across the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database by EWG. This is a website where you can look up ingredients or products and see how good or bad they are for you, based on the research available. While the site is far from perfect I find it a great resource as someone who hasn't done all the research myself. My biggest frustration is that the product I'm looking for often isn't included in their database. But, to be fair, there are millions of products out there…they can't ALL be in there! Plus, if I really wanted to I could build my own report by inputting all the ingredients in the product. I have yet to find an ingredient not found in their database (that I can remember, at least).

You can go to the site to learn exactly how it works, but in a nutshell the database rates products and ingredients with two ratings - a hazard rating (1 being the best or lowest hazard and 7 being the worst or highest hazard) and a data availability rating (with a range from None to Robust). The cleanest rating a product or ingredient can get, therefore, is 1/Robust.

What I found interesting, after surfing the website for a while (does anyone still say "surfing the web"?), is that many products can have a 1 (low hazard) rating even though they have an ingredient on someone's "avoid at all cost" list. That made me sigh with relief and stress me out at the same time. On the one hand, it meant that the use of "avoid at all cost" lists can be too strict. On the other hand, it meant that it's not as "easy" as just using an "avoid at all cost" list. You have to take more into account. Sigh.

The good news, though, is that EWG's Skin Deep group does all the research for you. Yes, you have to trust someone else's work. But you don't have to spend years re-learning chemistry and reading hundreds of scientific studies. I know which of those options I'm picking. If you happen to remember your chemistry or want to read horribly boring (to me) scientific studies the database denotes their data sources and includes some chemistry type of information as well.


I've found it easy to get lost or overwhelmed with the Skin Deep database, but overall it has been very helpful. In fact, it helped me find the new basic skin care regimen I'm currently using. More on that next time.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Cosmetic Detox - Background

It all started when my friend, who is always looking for a way to make a bit more travel money, told me we should start an Etsy business selling soaps and natural beauty products. I always love DIY projects so I was intrigued.

I'm not one to just jump into something at the drop of a hat, though…unless it's really stupid, of course…then I manage to ignore the need for any premeditation. Anyway, the next day I borrowed a few books from the library and started reading up on DIY beauty products. Oh boy.

I have a tendency to be pretty trusting of the written word (within reason, I'd like to think). So when I started reading about all the chemicals in our beauty products and how they're going to kill us all (ok, not really, but it sure feels like it sometimes), I was convinced that I needed to rid myself of these chemicals.

Here's my first problem…I'm typically an all or nothing kind of person. My first thought after reading some of these books was "I have to get rid of every product I own" and "I need to know every single ingredient I need to avoid." It was at this point that I became overwhelmed…before I had even started. This is why I've typically avoided learning anything about all these bad products in the past. It's just easier not to think about it. "We've lived for so long with these products and are still alive." "They're not banned by our government." "Would a company really knowingly harm me?!" I've told myself this, and more, many times throughout my life. And I've avoided thinking too hard about the truth or logic behind each statement. It's true…ignorance is bliss.

While I haven't researched every "bad" ingredient out there and therefore don't know exactly why some people consider it bad for me (yet…hopefully), I have come to a point where I want to at least give the "clean living" a shot.

Here's my second problem…going "all natural" or "chemical free" is bloody hard. It's confusing, time consuming, and you can't always see the benefits of making the change. And funny enough, going "all natural" or "chemical free" aren't really accurate names for the goal (I still haven't decided what the right phrase is yet). There are many natural products that one should avoid. Likewise, there are many chemicals that can be quite beneficial.

There is rarely any consensus about the danger of many cosmetic ingredients, either. One "expert", for example, believes you should always avoid lanolin, while another thinks it really only needs to be avoided if you're allergic to it. Because of the differing studies or opinions and the fact that the majority of the "bad" ingredients are used because they are cheap and/or effective, nearly every product out there has at least one ingredient that is on someone's "list of ingredients to avoid at all costs." This is hard for a girl who's all or nothing.

In fact, when I started my journey I knew I didn't have the time, energy, or patience to research every "bad" ingredient so I just made a list based on numerous other lists of ingredients to avoid and brought it with me to the supermarket in hopes of finding a new face moisturizer. I was in the "healthy" aisle and yet I could barely find a product that didn't have one of those ingredients in it. Let me tell you, I got a few looks as I stood in the aisle reading the composition of product after product and comparing the nonsensical ingredient names to the list on my phone.

It's, unfortunately, much more complicated than just shopping at Whole Foods or the "natural" aisle in your supermarket.

But I have decided not to give up yet. I now have a new mindset and a rough plan. That plan? Patience. Taking it one product at a time.

That probably sounds like elementary to many people. But as an "all or nothing" kind of girl this is new for me. This is also where this blog comes in. It's not so much a blog for other people as it is somewhere I can record my "learnings" and experiences so I can easily reference them as time goes by.

If anyone does read this, besides myself, I hope you find my journey helpful (assuming I get anywhere with it). If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it. However, I ask that any statements made as fact (e.g. "parabens are horrible for you") are followed by some sort of reference for said fact. In this journey, I'm also trying to be more critical of what I hear/read. I'm far from being any good at it yet, but one has to start somewhere. 

~Erin

P.S. Forewarning - I love using quotation marks and exclamation points! I also stink at grammar and am not a great writer. Apologies up front!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Coral Baby Shower Cake

Baby shower cake I made for a friend of mine. Lemon cake, lavender flavored (and colored) buttercream and homemade marshmallow fondant. I wish I got a picture of the inside. The lemon cake and lavender buttercream was beautiful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cat Food - Calorie Percentages

One day, as I was researching a raw food diet for my cat, I came across the following site: catinfo.org. While I wasn't ready to go the all raw route (mostly because one of my cats has kidney problems) I found the information on the commercial wet cat food quite interesting. I didn't realize how lacking most of the cat food out there is. Many companies that advertise that they are nourishing our babies are really just giving them some good stuff mixed in with a lot of unnecessary junk.

Have you ever tried to read the nutritional information on a cat food label? It's not like human labels, is it? Maximum this. Minimum that. It's confusing. I won't go into all the fun of the cat food label (you can read more about it on catinfo.org if you'd like). I will mention, though, that there is a blatant lack of carbohydrate information. As I've learned, you have to be a bit of a mathematician to figure it out. And after you do figure it out, what then? What's the best way to digest the information? I would suggest looking at the it as the percentages of calories coming from protein, fat, and carbs (the three sources of calories in food). As you can see on the catinfo.org site, she has done a lot of work to provide this information (along with additional info) to us. However, the list hasn't been updated in a very long time and I found most of the percentages out of date. I also found the site cram packed with information, but hard to digest since it's kind of all over the place. Therefore, I have taken some time to update the values and provide the information a bit differently.

I have provided the calorie percentages, kcal/oz (so we can compare them across the board), and the moisture maximum %. I include the moisture % because of the recommended tips on finding the best food for your cat (below). This is not a complete list of wet cat foods out there. I am still in the process of gathering information from websites. I am starting at brands found at Petco and Petsmart, as they are the most commonly found brands. I will brand out from there after those are complete.

Tips for finding the best food for your cat:
  • Stick to 10% or less carbohydrates.
  • Try to get food higher in protein than in fat.
  • For cost savings, stay at or below 78% moisture. Anything more than that and you're just paying for extra water.

Table: Wet Cat Food Calories by Percentage


Friday, June 19, 2015

Frozen Castle Cake

It started three years ago. My best friend had a baby and I didn't give her the option. I told her, "I'm making Nola's first birthday cake. Just so you know." Thankfully, she was fine with that. Fast forward three years to Nola's third birthday party with a Frozen theme. Before I even knew what I was going to make Nola was pumped for her birthday cake. Funny thing is, Nola doesn't really even like cake. So, I decided a castle cake would be nice and grand. Something exciting for her to look at.

This is the cake I ended up with. I wish you could see the brick impression on the picture, but you get the idea. Instead of just making a castle cake I wanted to have a bit of Elsa's frozen ice palace as well, which is what is at the top of the cake.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scotch Bottle in Crate Birthday Cake

A friend of mine recently turned the big 4-0. I had to do something special! He's a scotch lover so I had originally thought I was going to bake him a cake/cupcakes made with scotch. But when I was looking for recipes on Pinterest, of course, I ran across the wine bottle in a crate cake. I thought, "this could also work for a scotch bottle." In the end, the cake didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped/wanted, but I was still pretty satisfied. I always forget to take pictures during the creation process, but, for the most part, I just followed the instructions on the video linked above, with a few modifications. I've outlined the process below.


Scotch bottle: I used 3/4 gum paste, 1/4 fondant (I'm frugal and knew that the bottle would still dry hard even if it wasn't completely gum paste, so I used some fondant as a filler). This particular brand of scotch is in a clear bottle with the liquid being a gold/yellow color....which is pretty much the hardest color to replicate...at least for me. Originally I attempted to do a marble look by kneading together different colored balls of gum paste (in shades of yellow and gold), but it didn't really work out very well. Oh well, I used it anyway. I covered a similar shaped scotch bottle (Macallan is bloody expensive...no one I knew had one of those bottles!) in saran wrap and a layer of cornstarch, then laid the rolled out gum paste onto the bottle (laying on it's side - I put a tea towel under the bottle so it wouldn't roll around as much). Once it was molded nicely, I cut the gum paste about midway up the bottle. Then I let it sit on the bottle for a few days. This is very similar to what was done in the video. The only difference is that I used a scotch bottle instead of a wine bottle.

After it hardened for a few days, I sponge painted on the orange coloring. This was done with small amounts of Wilton orange icing color mixed with vodka. I am definitely not an artists, but I like the way the coloring turned out. It was definitely better than the color it originally was. Finally, for the gold seal, I mixed lots of gold pearl dust with vodka and painted on a few coats in order for it to show really well.

As for the label, I cheated. I don't have a printer to use for edible printing, so I just printed it on a piece of paper and glued it on with water. I know some grocery stores can do edible prints for you, but it usually has to be non-copyrighted material....which this wasn't. In the end, no one was going to eat the scotch bottle, so I didn't think it'd matter too much (and it didn't).

Crate: Surrounding the cake itself is the 'wooden' crate. Now, this didn't come close to what I had attempted to do, but still thinks it looks pretty, so I was fine with it. I didn't have a wood imprint, like she does in the video and found a tutorial on how to make wood planks out of gum paste/fondant. So I followed the tutorial, but I think where I went wrong is that I rolled out the 'snake' vertically (thus spreading out the wood grain), rather than horizontally (which I think would have caused the wood grain to come out better). I had to roll out the gum paste pretty thin (because I didn't start with enough colored blocks...eek), so drying them for 3 days was very important.

Assembly: I iced the sides of the cake a bit more than a crumb coat, but you don't need to gob it on. It's also ok if there are crumbs cause it's going to be covered. I liked that...I'm bad at not crumbing the icing. I did use quite a bit of icing for the top, though, since I thought it would be seen. In the end, it was entirely covered with coconut so it wasn't necessary, but in terms of eating the cake, it's nice to have a bit more than just the filling. Finally, I put the bottle mold on top and surrounded it with toasted coconut. Voila!