Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY with the Magical Coconut Oil

Seasons Greetings S+SR Readers!

Two posts in less than a week?!  A miracle, I know.  Much like the presence of this post, the content is about a miracle product.  Coconut Oil!  I really cannot rave enough about coconut oil.  It has so many great applications, from beauty to cooking.  In addition, it is very affordable and natural.  No ingredients you can't pronounce, just coconut oil.

Trader Joe's Coconut Oil ($6) As usual, like my last stock image, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image or take it down if whoever owns it throws a hissy fit.

The Basics:
Coconut oil is made from extracting the oils out of a coconut.  It is a solid at room temperature, but easily turns into a liquid with just body heat, a hot day, or a zap in the microwave.  Not all coconut oils are created equal, some coconut oil is extracted using high heat, chemicals and even bleach.  This is why I suggest a virgin and organic coconut oil.  Much like the Trader Joe's one shown above.  That huge jar costs around $6 and will last forever! 

Benefits List:
Ms. Sparkles, why should I consider adding coconut oil to my beauty routines?  Well dear reader, I'm glad you asked.
  • Antibacterial and Antimicrobial- As a result of the saturated fats in coconut oil, it aids in killing bacteria and fungi (gross but cool right?)  This is great for treating skin conditions such as eczema and dandruff.
  •  Low Molecular Weight- Why do you care about this?  Unlike other oils (almond, caster, jojoba, olive, etc) used in beauty applications, coconut oil is very light.  This means that it does the best job at absorbing into the hair shaft.  
  • Moisturizing- This oil is great for replacing oils lost in skin, hair, and nails.  Oils are great for locking in moisture right after a bath or shower as well.
  • Economical Luxury- Many high end beauty products (especially the more natural ones) often use some derivative of coconut oil.  Why not jump directly to the sourceAnd hey, it doesn't hurt that it smells like fruity cocktails on the beach right?

Sparkles Tested and Approved Uses:  
Now you have been convinced to get some organic virgin coconut oil, you have this jar and you don't know where to start.  Well here are some of my favorite uses for coconut oil.
  1. Make-Up Remover:  This is my #1 make-up remover method.  I simply take a baby wipe (I like all natural, ones like Seventh Generation Free & Clear Baby Wipes)  and run a part of it in the still solid coconut oil.  I use the babywipe + coconut oil (which liquifies upon contact with the warmth of your skin) to remove all traces of eye/face make-up in a jiffy.  The antimicrobial properties help reduce the chances of a break out and add moisture to my skin as it takes away even the most waterproof mascaras.  Win all around!  If you don't have a baby wipe, any cotton pad + coconut oil will work as well.  I just like the extra cleaning power/surface area that comes with the baby wipe.  Warning: Try not to get it IN your eye, it isn't pleasant but it is not as bad as some of those super chemically products out there (which don't work nearly as well if you ask me).
  2. Eyelash Growth/Eye-Brightening Serum: I have puny eyelashes.  I have found that taking a really tiny bit of coconut oil on a Q-tip and running along my eyelash line and lightly coating my lashes has really helped them grow fuller.  I have also noticed that if I simply run a cotton pad with a small amount the oil over my whole eye area before bed, they look much brighter the next day (2 results for the price of 1 action!)  I am not sure how this works on wrinkles, but hey it is way more economical than eye creams and is worth a try.  If you have more fine lines/wrinkles and try this, let me know how it goes!  Being all natural, I'm sure you could also use coconut oil in conjunction with your favorite eye creams.
  3. Cuticle Oil/Nail Conditioner:  Obsessive nail painting can leave nails and cuticles dry.  My favorite thing to do when I'm wearing my natural nails (to give them a break) is to apply coconut oil to my nails and cuticles before bed.  Hey, while you are at it, might as well put some on your whole hands as a hand moisturizer too.
  4. Rough Patch/All Over Skin Moisturizer:  If you are planning on going out, I would just use this on your rough patches (knees, elbows etc.) to avoid looking greasy.  If you have having an at home spa day, go ahead and put a light coat of this on your whole body after you get out of the shower.  You wont regret it.
  5. Hair Oil/Dandruff Treatment : I find it easiest to warm a tablespoon or two of the oil in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.  Brush/comb out any hair tangles.   Then I use my fingers to rub the oil into my scalp in sections.  Lastly I run my hands through my ends with any remaining oil.  I put on a shower cap (or plastic bag) and sit around for as long as I can stand (or over night if you are more tolerant of things on your head than me).  Shampoo out the oil (you will probably have to shampoo twice to make sure your hair is not greasy).  I like to use a very light conditioner afterwards, but this is not necessary.  I do this once every 2 weeks but if you have severely dry, damaged, or frizzy hair, once a week is fine too.  Though this may seem labor intensive, if you have dry or damaged hair, you will be shocked at how amazing the results are.  Oh the smoothness!
  6. Hair Shine Serum:  Not feeling the heavy silicone shine products in your hair?  I can understand.  Silicone is one of the most debated beauty ingredients (let me know if you are interested in a post about the great silicone debates).  A great alternative is a TINY amount of coconut oil.  Either before or after drying, take 1/2 a dime sized amount and emulsify it in your hands. Apply to hair and let the magic happen. 
Hope this helped inspire you to consider using coconut oil.  I really love all the uses for it (there are even more but I haven't tried them).  I also love the affordability and overall effectiveness of this oil.  When it comes to beauty, I often feel that less is more--this is certainly true of coconut oil!

Shine & Sparkle! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Venture into Sulfate Free Shampoo Reviews

I'm so sorry Shine and Sparkle Report fans!

I have been quite a busy bee.  I have also been trying to test a lot of Sulfate-Free, Paraben-Free, and Natural shampoos for you all!  Below is a picture of the three shampoos I have tried so far.  I have tried each of them for at least 2 weeks each.

From left to right: Yes To Cucumbers: Color Care Shampoo, Matrix Biolage: Delicate Care Shampoo, and Burts Bees: More Moisture Shampoo.

Now, I'm sure you are wondering why you should bother with sulfate and paraben free and natural shampoos in the first place right?  While I know that a lot of studies are done all the time with questionable methodologies, I tend to think "why risk it if I don't have to."  In addition, I know (for me) reducing sulfates, parabens, and trying more natural  products has really helped with my sensitive/acne prone skin.

Many sulfates, including SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) and ALS (ammonium laureth sulfate) are cheap options for companies to make their product suds up and foam.
 Unfortunately, sulfates irritate skin and hair cells. Sulfates may have harmful effects on the environment and health.  For example, sulfates can be absorbed by the liver and mimic the effect of the hormone estrogen in the body. Also, sulfates can contain 1.4-dioxane, this is considered a possible carcinogen by the EPA.  A lot of consumers are starting to take a "better safe than sorry" approach to sulfates in beauty products.

In shampoos, sulfates also strip your hair of natural oils and will actually increase your scalps oil production.  Since using sulfate free shampoos, I can go much longer without washing my hair (I do shower every day! I just let the water run through my hair and distribute the oils evenly rather than shampooing.)

According to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, "Parabens are used to prevent the growth of microbes in cosmetic products and can be absorbed through the skin, blood and digestive system (i). They have been found in biopsies from breast tumors (ii) at concentrations similar to those found in consumer products (iii). Parabens are found in nearly all urine samples from U.S. adults of a variety of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds."

While "Natural" is a label that has quite a bit of controversy surrounding it, I generally tend to think natural products at least have fewer irritants, dyes, preservatives, fragrances, and other things that could potentially be bad for you.  

The Products:
 The key areas I have been looking at for shampoos have been:
1) How clean my hair feels
2) Lather
3) Affordability

I did lots of research and came up with these three brands I really wanted to try.  There are 1 or 2 more I want to also compare.  However, I'm going to wait until I use up some products before getting anymore.

Burts Bees: More Moisture Shampoo--Despite great reviews, this shampoo (I also tried the conditioner) Gets a big fat 0 of 10.   By far the worst that I got, this shampoo simply made my hair dirtier.  It also did not lather very well.  The only good thing about it is that it was affordable at around $8 a 10oz bottle.

Matrix Biolage: Delicate Care Shampoo-- I actually really like this shampoo, I would give it a 7 of 10.  It has a satisfying lather.  I definitely felt that this shampoo is very gentle on your hair.  If you are trying to get a lot of hairspray or other products out of your hair, it might not clean too effective.  For daily use, it is great. The biggest downfall of this shampoo is that it is a salon priced shampoo and is more pricey at around $18-20 for a 10.1oz bottle.

Yes to Cucumbers: Color Care Shampoo--  Of the three shampoos I tried, I would give this one a 9 of 10.  It has a great lather and an amazing sweet cucumber scent.  If you don't like cucumber you might not like it, but I find it luxurious and refreshing.  It is also surprisingly effective at cleaning.  One wash will get light amounts of products out with ease.  Double washing gets out even the most stubborn hairsprays or gels. I also tried the conditioner.  It has one questionable last ingredient (sodium hydroxide) which I'm not too big a fan of.  That being said, I still use it on days I want stick straight and totally tamed hair without much (if any) styling.  This shampoo is also very very affordable at $8-10 for 16.9oz!  I know they have recently upgraded their formula.  The sodium hydroxide is gone from the conditioner and there are slightly different ingredients in the shampoo as well.  When I finish the bottles I have I will do an updated review.

Just so you know, I still use my Paul Mitchell: Lemon Sage Thickening Shampoo/Conditioner once a week as a clarifying and scalp stimulating measure.  I truly feel that trying to be as healthy as possible is good, but at the same time moderation is the key.  Overall, mainly using sulfate/paraben free and natural shampoos have really increased the moisture, health and shine of my hair.  I still like having some thickening ingredients in my beauty regimen.  If you want to see more on my healthy hair care tips, check out my past post on Healthy Hair.

Shine & Sparkle!